If you like nuts and have gout, you will be happy to learn that the crunchy snack does not trigger gout. In fact, when eaten in moderation, nuts are recommended by health experts as part of an ideal diet for gout.
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According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD), gout is a form of arthritis stemming from an excessive buildup of uric acid. When uric acid levels get too high in your blood, needle-shaped crystals form and lodge in joints throughout the body, causing inflammation that triggers painful flare-ups. But, NIAMSD notes, through a mix of medication and diet, gout is one of the most controllable forms of arthritis.
Diets Good for Gout
"Diet is important for people with gout," says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and senior clinical nutritionist with the Musculoskeletal Care and Sports Performance Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"And research suggests that more plant-based, whole-food dietary approaches to eating may be helpful in managing gout," she says. NIAMSD notes that dietary concern centers on foods that are high in purine, a substance that breaks down into uric acid. And what is the main source of purine? Meat.
"People with gout should meet with a registered dietitian to help create an individualized dietary approach," Heller says. But as a practical matter, she says, gout patients will fare best by tracking a largely vegetarian meal plan, or by specifically following either the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or the Mediterranean diet. Both of these diets limit meat to only small amounts and focus more on a plant-based approach instead.
Why Nuts Are Good for Gout
"Nuts are a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats," Heller says, and they "play a significant role in plant-based eating." But, most significantly, no matter the type, "nuts are not considered high-purine foods," she says, meaning that no matter your preference — whether peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, almonds or others — people with gout can eat any type of nuts they like.
The DASH and Mediterranean diets also both emphasize nuts as part of a healthy eating plan. Per the Mayo Clinic, the DASH diet is essentially designed to cut down on high blood pressure risk. As such, it emphasizes reducing salt (sodium) intake while emphasizing:
- Low-fat dairy.
Mayo Clinic adds to that list moderate amounts of:
- Whole grains.
- Nuts (unsalted).
- Whole grains.
- Healthy fats.
- Olive oil.
Nuts: Low-Purine and Anti-Inflammatory
And beyond being low in purine, nuts may also be the perfect protein substitute for people with gout who are avoiding or cutting back on meat.
A September 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nuts are good sources of protein and that they pack an anti-inflammatory punch. (Remember: inflammation can provoke painful gout flare-ups.) Among the more than 5,000 study participants, the researchers found that those who routinely consumed peanuts and/or any type of tree nut had lower systemic inflammation.
Some participants were also asked to change their diet and consume three weekly servings of nuts instead of three weekly servings of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains. The result? Inflammation went down significantly.
Nuts are low in purine, high in protein and anti-inflammatory — and when it comes to gout, that's a win-win-win. Remember, though, because nuts are high in calories and fat, it's important to keep your portions in check. The Cleveland Clinic notes that a serving of nuts is one ounce.
Read more: 9 Healthy Nuts That May Help You Live Longer
Other Foods to Eat or Avoid for Gout
While you're noshing on nuts, it's good to avoid other foods and drinks that can cause your gout to flare.
The Mayo Clinic advises limiting or steering clear of:
- Organ and glandular meats (liver, kidney and sweetbreads).
- Red meat (beef, lamb, pork).
- Alcohol (especially beer and distilled liquors).
- Sugary foods and beverages.
- Samantha Heller, MS, RD, registered dietician; exercise physiologist; senior clinical nutritionist, Musculoskeletal Care and Sports Performance Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Gout”
- Mayo Clinic: “Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan”
- Mayo Clinic: “DASH Diet: Healthy Eating to Lower Your Blood Pressure”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Nutrition: Nuts & Heart Health”
- Mayo Clinic: “Gout Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not”
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Associations Between Nut Consumption and Inflammatory Biomarkers”
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.