The nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, are required for the storage and expression of genetic information. Nucleic acids are made up of purines and pyrimidines, which are carbon- and nitrogen-containing molecules derived from carbon dioxide and amino acids like glutamine. Because they are formed in the body, nucleic acids are not essential nutrients. Dietary sources are plant and animal foods like meat, certain vegetables and alcohol.
Beans, peas, lentils, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower and mushrooms are all vegetable sources of nucleic acids, specifically purines. Rapidly growing foods like asparagus have the highest amount of nucleic acids of the vegetables. Lettuce, tomatoes and other green vegetables are not significant sources of nucleic acids.
All meats, including organ meats, and seafood contain high levels of nucleic acids. Meat extracts and gravies are also notably high. Of these foods, organ meats such as liver have the most nuclei, and are therefore highest in nucleic acids. Conversely, dairy products and nuts are considered low-nucleic acid foods.
Yeast and yeast extracts, beer and other alcoholic beverages are additional sources of nucleic acids in the diet. On the other hand, grains such as bread and cereals, as well as fruits and fruit juices, are not high in nucleic acids.
Nucleic Acids and Health
Dietary nucleic acids are generally converted into uric acid and enter the blood and urine, where they can form crystals, a condition known as gout. Higher levels of meat and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout, whereas moderate intake of vegetables high in nucleic acids, such as asparagus, does not have this effect. Of the alcohols, beer consumption confers a higher risk of gout than does whiskey or wine.
- "Biochemistry": Pamela C. Champe et al.; 2005
- "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment"; Stephen J. McPhee et al.; 2009
- Pubmed.gov: Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men; Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G.; March 2004