Xanthine and hypoxanthine. Do you know what they are? If so, you can click back or out. You probably know all about how your body converts these two types of purines into uric acid.

If not, this post will justify why gout sufferers should not be so scared of eating purine-rich vegetables.

Here are five frequently asked questions and answers about purines in vegetables.

Which vegetables have the most purines?

Any food with proteins will most likely contain purines. Vegetables are no different. In most cases, you will find purine-rich vegetables contain the most proteins.

There is not one primary reference for purine content like the USDA website for protein. (If you have a legit purine table to add please share!) So, to best identify which vegetables contain the most purines, you would simply look for the ones with the most proteins.

Per USDA, here are 9 high-purine and high-protein (non-bean) vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Green peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Soybean spouts
  • Spinach

It wasn’t too long ago when many health professionals recommended to avoid these vegetables like they were shellfish or red meat. Although the fact that vegetables contain far less protein than meats is well known, little purine research before the new millennium.

To learn what small changes can improve your gout, read this: The Truth About A Plant-Based Diet For Gout

What studies prove purine-rich vegetables are not harmful to gout sufferers?

These five major studies from recent years concluded purine from vegetables do not increase uric acid level as much as purines in meats.

One well-known study from 2004 confirmed the link between purine-rich foods and hyperuricemia. It one of the first major studies to prove vegetable purines had little effect on uric acid levels. This started an awareness that vegetable with purines were a lower gout risk compared to meats and seafood.

A 2012 study from Scotland monitored 2000 participants and collected food data collected for over six years. It showed no evidence of gout in patients on diets heavy on purine-rich vegetables.

A 2016 German nutrition study proved diets with more purine-rich plant foods such as legumes and vegetables do not increase the risk of gout. However, patients who also drank beer and red meat experienced more gout. Researchers also confirmed obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are major factors to develop gout.

In 2018, an extensive statistical report was done on 19 international gout-diet studies prior to 2017. The data concluded high-purine vegetables have no clear association with hyperuricemia and gout symptoms.

A more recent research study in 2019 investigated the effects of a plant-based diet on urate levels. The data showed consumption of purine-rich vegetables did not increase uric acid levels. Evidently, urate levels increased only in test participants with chronic kidney disease.

Spinach smoothie purine-rich vegetables
Vitamins, antioxidants and minerals found in vegetables can neutralize the potential harm from purines.

Why are purines from vegetables less of a gout risk?

Vegetables with the highest purine content will have about two to four times less purines found in most red meat and seafood.

According to a comprehensive study in May 2014, high-purine vegetables did not increase the risk of gout. It was discovered that patients who consumed animal-source purines showed higher uric acid levels. The group on plant-based diets did not experience any significant increases.

Furthermore, the research determined organ meat, red meat, and seafood with high amounts of hypoxanthine and xanthine, led to more cases of hyperuricemia and gout.

Adenine and guanine are the two major purines found in food. However, hypoxanthine and xanthine are created when adenine and guanine converts to uric acid.

This purine table shows vegetables contain very little hypoxanthine and xanthine compared to meat and seafood.

FoodAdenineGuanineHypoxanthineXanthineTotal Purines
Baby Spinach83.588.30.00.0171.8
Asparagus20.730.53.80.355.3
Broccoli25.133.95.75.370
Beef Sirloin16.29.155.89.1109.3
Clam63.539.9312.230.4145.5
Mackerel17.648.499.40.0165.3
Foods with high amounts of hypoxanthine and xanthine purines are higher gout risks. (Data from: Total Purine and Purine Base Content of Common Foodstuffs, 2014)

What is in vegetables that prevent uric acid and gout?

When it comes to gout, vegetables are not only healthful because of their low purine content. Vitamins, antioxidants and minerals found in vegetables can neutralize the potential harm from purines.

In many high-protein vegetables, you can find vitamins A, C and K, riboflavin, and folate. Additionally, the fiber in vegetables support digestive health by promoting prebiotics and probiotics in your gut. As a result, more uric acid will be more soluble to filter out of the blood instead of sticking to your joints.

Also, high protein/high purine vegetables with darker colors like spinach, collards and eggplant, have antioxidant properties. Similar to fruits, deeper pigments indicate a higher amount of anthocyanins and flavenoids to protect the liver and kidneys from free radicals. Healthy bladder, liver, and kidneys optimize the removal of uric acid.

How do alkalizing vegetables help with gout?

While many nutrients in vegetables neutralize purines, their alkalizing effects help flush out excess uric acid and improve kidney function. Purine-rich vegetables are also very alkalizing. This is an area most gout sufferers do not consider or realize helpful to their diets.

A food’s acid or alkaline forming properties in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, citrus fruits are acidic in nature, but citric acid actually has an alkalizing effect in our body. However, the food we eat has very small effects on our blood pH level.

The major significance of alkalizing foods is it can raise the pH level in urine making it less acidic. When urine is less acidic, the easier it is for the body to flush out uric acid. Additionally, an alkaline diet rich in vegetables and fruit help in reduce the risk of hyperuricemia and gout.

For more specifics on how alkalizing foods can help with gout, please read: What And Why Alkalizing Foods Help With Your Gout

When I heard that vegetables with purines may not be major gout risk, I decided to try for myself. Here’s the asparagus recipe I decided to try. This was back in 2012. I ate twice as much the amount in the video and felt no signs of gout. I eat it asparagus twice a month with no issues. Always see for yourself what works for you.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind when your uric acid level is nearing your gout tipping point, a cup of spit-pea soup, or two slices of spinach pizza, or an eggplant-parm sandwich, or one pint of a micro-brew can easily tilt you into the gout danger zone.

There are vegetables that have a moderate amount of purines that will increase uric acid levels. However, you would likely need to eat three to ten times of it to equal the amount of purines found in a typical serving of red meats and seafood.

Higher concentrations of hypoxanthine and xanthine are found in animal-based meats compared to vegetables. Foods containing these two purines have proven to be the primary cause of uric acid overproduction.

I included the purine content of beef sirloin, clams and mackerel because they contain high amounts of hypoxanthine and xanthine. Plus, I can attest these three foods have given me nasty gout attacks when overindulging back in the day.

When you can learn and track the right foods to eat, you will be able to manage your uric acid levels. Vegetables provide you more of the right nutrition than wrong.

Don’t be scared of purine-rich vegetables. They are not as dangerous like anchovies, clams or beer! Eating more purine-rich vegetables than purine-rich meats will only help in becoming more GOUTPROOF!

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