Foods High in Purines

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on November 29, 2022
3 min read

Purines are one of the most common chemical compounds on the planet. There are two kinds of purines: endogenous and exogenous. Exogenous purines are absorbed by the body through the foods that you eat, whereas, endogenous purines are made directly by the body itself. 

Uric acid forms when purines are broken down in the digestive system. Eating too many purines can cause a buildup of uric acid in the body. If uric acid remains in the body for too long, it can crystallize and cause a number of health risks. Therefore, it’s important to moderate the number of purines that you consume.

Your body successfully digests and expels most purines without difficulty, however, this isn't always the case. If your digestive system isn't able to fully process purines, or if you eat too many purines regularly, you may experience excess amounts of uric acid in your body. A number of health risks may arise if either occurs, such as: 

Increased Diabetes Risk

Excessive purine intake can lead to hyperuricemia, a condition caused when there's too much uric acid in the bloodstream. Researchers have found that high uric acid levels in the body are correlated with an increased risk of diabetes. 

Kidney Health

Too many purines in the body can cause uric acid in the kidneys to crystallize and harden, resulting in kidney stones. Serious cases of kidney stones can be quite painful and may even need surgical intervention to eliminate entirely.

Arthritis and Gout

Gout is a specific kind of arthritis caused by deposits of uric acid crystals that accumulate in the joints, often around elbows, knees, or hands. Gout inflammation can produce serious discomfort and should be treated by a doctor when there’s a flare-up. 

Purines are prevalent in nature and part of a normal diet, however, depending on your diet, you may be consuming too many. If you’re predisposed to hyperuricemia or any related health risks, you may want to consider moderating your purine intake or seek alternative food options. Here are 4 foods with high purine levels that you should avoid:

1. Organ Meats

Although a good source of nutrition in other contexts, organ meats are notably high in purines and should be avoided by anyone looking to eat a more gout-friendly diet.

2. Alcohol 

Different kinds of alcohol have varying levels of purines. Many people with gout seek out low-purine alcoholic beverages like spirits. Beer is especially high in purines and has been found to increase uric acid levels when consumed regularly. 

3. Seafood

Sardines and anchovies have some of the highest levels of purines out of the various kinds of fish.. 

4. Sweetened Beverages

Multiple studies have established a link between hyperuricemia, gout, and similar conditions, with excess consumption of sugar. Purines found in high-fructose corn syrup, in particular, are correlated with increased crystal deposits and their associated symptoms.

If you’re suffering from gout or other purine related health complications, your doctor may recommend a low-purine diet. The following foods are low in purines:

  • Eggs
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Any type of fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables (excluding asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, and green peas)
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Crab, salmon, and herring

You may want to consider regularly eating fruits like oranges and cherries, which are reported to reduce inflammation caused by uric acid.