Purines are natural substances found in nearly all foods and all of our body’s cells. Since purines provide part of the chemical structure of our genes and the genes of plants and animals in stands to reason that they are very widespread. A relatively small amount of foods, contain concentrated amounts of purines. Mostly these high-purine foods (see list below) are also high-protein foods, and these include meats (organs) like kidney, fish like mackerel, herring, sardines and mussels, and also yeast.
(How Purines are metabolized into uric acid)
When cells die and get recycled, the purines in their genetic material also get broken down. Uric acid is the chemical formed when purines have been completely broken down. That’s no biggie as it’s normal and healthy for uric acid to be formed in the body from breakdown of purines. After all uric acid serves as an antioxidant in our blood and helps prevent damage to our blood vessel linings. Therefore a continual supply of uric acid is important for protecting our blood vessels.
There are however a number of ways in which uric acid levels in our blood (and other parts of our bodies) can reach dangerous levels. This can be for a variety of reasons. In essence our kidneys are responsible for helping keep uric acid levels in our blood balanced. So any kidney problems can lead to an excessive accumulation of uric acid in various parts of the body. A disproportionate, breakdown of cells can also cause a build-up of uric acid. When uric acid accumulates, uric acid crystals (called monosodium urate crystals) can become deposited in our tendons, joints, kidneys, and other organs. This accumulation of uric acid crystals is called gouty arthritis, or simply “gout.”
Now that that’s been explained here is a list of some food types to help you decide what to eat but also what might in your case be a contributing factor to your excess uric acid.
- Beer, other alcoholic beverages.
- Anchovies, sardines in oil, fish roes, herring.
- Organ meat (liver, kidneys, sweetbreads)
- Vegetables (dried beans, peas)
- Meat extracts, consomme, gravies.
- Mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower.
Low Purine Foods
- Dark berries may contain chemicals that lower uric acid and reduce inflammation.
- Tofu that is made from soybeans is a better choice than meats.
- Certain fatty acids found in certain fish such as salmon, flax or olive oil, or nuts may possess some anti-inflammatory benefits.
So What (the Heck) Should You Eat?
We are constantly told what we should not eat, but what the heck should people eat? What foods will help control gout attacks? Here are some recommendations from the AMA (American Medical Association) for people with gout:
- high in complex carbohydrates (fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables)
- low in protein (15% of calories and sources should be soy, lean meats, or poultry)
- no more than 30% of calories in fat (with only 10% animal fats)
Recommended Foods To Eat
- Fresh cherries
- Blueberries, and other red-blue berries
- Vegetables including cabbage, parsley, green-leafy vegetables and kale.
- Foods high in bromelain like pineapples.
- Foods high in vitamin C – that’s red cabbage, red bell peppers, tangerines, mandarins, oranges, and potatoes.
- Low-fat dairy products
- Complex carbohydrates – breads, cereals, pasta, rice and fruits.
- Chocolate, (I love this one)
- Coffee, tea (My second addiction after chocolate)
- Essential fatty acids (tuna and salmon, flaxseed, nuts, seeds)
- Tofu, and varieties thereof like seitan and tempeh.
- Drink fruit juices and purified water (7-8 glasses of water/day)
There are also some food groups that have fairly high levels of purines and yet may not increase the risk of gout. These are foods like mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, whole grain bread, chicken, ham, duck, turkey and lima beans.
So if you wish to avoid colchicine in your gout treatment then it is worth keeping an eye on the list above.
We need to bear in mind that purines are not little devils but are actually found in all protein foods.