Potatoes and Gout: Are Potatoes OK With Gout?

Potatoes and Gout
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Potatoes and gout: Here you’ll discover if potatoes are safe to eat with gout and if you’re one of a select group who should not eat potatoes (and it’s got nothing to do with gout).

Are potatoes safe in a gout diet?

Love potatoes, but not sure if you can eat them with gout? Let’s take a closer look then…

First, what’s the potato’s purine content? And why is this important?

Well, gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by uric acid crystals deposited in the joints and surrounding tissue. These crystals are formed when too much uric acid is circulating in the bloodstream. But uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of natural compounds called purines which exist in our bodies’ cells and in the cells of the food we eat.

Some foods are high in purines, others are moderately high, whilst many have low purine concentrations.

To help reduce the risk of gout attacks (flare-ups) gout patients have to avoid high purine foods, such as organ meats, game and seafood, and limit moderately high purine foods, like red meat, poultry, and some species of seafood.

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Low purine foods are generally safe to consume: vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grains, legumes, seeds, eggs, milk, cheese, unsalted butter, natural yogurt, and even some fish species, such as plaice and monkfish.

That’s why we need to know the purine content of the humble potato.

Purine Content of Potatoes

The good news is…

Potatoes are a low-purine food — i.e. they produce less than 100 mg of uric acid in a 3.5 oz (100 g) serving — so are safe to eat.

But another thing we need to look out for is fructose content, since fructose — especially high fructose corn syrup — has been linked to raised uric acid levels

Fructose in Potatoes

So how much fructose does a potato contain?

You’re in luck! 100 grams of raw potato contains only 0.2 grams of fructose, which is very low when you consider a cucumber has 1.0 gram (source).

Although cooking can increase this, it still remains low. For example, one large baked potato, with skin, contains around 1 gram of fructose (source), excluding any fillings or sauces; which need to be considered separately.

Potatoes, then, pass the purine and fructose tests and so, as far as gout is concerned, are safe to eat in a healthy, balanced gout diet.

But it’s not all good news…

The potato is rated as a relatively high Glycemic Index (GI) food due to its high starch content which breaks down into glucose (sugar) when consumed. The GI is a rating of how much a food increases blood sugar; the higher the rating the higher and faster the increase.

So high GI foods can cause rapid blood sugar spikes which are harmful for diabetics and can also promote weight gain, leading to obesity.

And high glycemic diets have been linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers.

The Glycemic Index ranges from 0 to 100 with glucose being 100. Different potato varieties have different GI’s, but many range between 80 and 90 (source). 70+ is considered high.

Of course, portion control can reduce the risk, while the way they are cooked and eaten can also help. For example, it’s known that cooling potatoes can change their starch structure, which in turn, causes sugar to be absorbed into the blood more slowly. So eating them cold (after pre-cooking) or reheated, can help to reduce the effective GI.

Now, you’re maybe beginning to think, ‘Am I better off just avoiding them altogether?’

If you are, then you might want to think again, because the apparent downsides have to be balanced against the potato’s overall nutritional value…

Potato Nutrition

According to Healthline:

Potatoes are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals.

One medium baked potato (6.1 ounces or 173 grams), including the skin, provides:

  • Calories: 161
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Protein: 4.3 grams
  • Carbs: 36.6 grams
  • Fiber: 3.8 grams
  • Vitamin C: 28% of the RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake)
  • Vitamin B6: 27% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 26% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 19% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 12% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
  • Niacin: 12% of the RDI
  • Folate: 12% of the RDI

The nutritional content of potatoes can vary depending on the variety and how they are prepared. For example, frying potatoes adds more calories and fat than baking them.

It’s also important to note the skin of the potatoes contains a great amount of the vitamins and minerals. Peeling potatoes can significantly reduce their nutritional content.

Potatoes also provide good amounts of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), iron, copper, zinc, thiamine, niacin, quercetin, and choline. And a whole lot more.

A number of studies have even suggested that the wide range of important nutrients in this simple staple may benefit your health…

Health Benefits of the Humble Potato

According to Medical News Today potatoes can contribute to a healthy lifestyle in a number of ways:

1) Bone health

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes all help the body to build and maintain bone structure and strength.

Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.

Phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure, but it is essential to balance the two minerals for proper bone mineralization. Too much phosphorus and too little calcium result in bone loss and contribute to osteoporosis.

2) Blood pressure

A low sodium intake is essential for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, but increasing potassium intake may be just as important. Potassium encourages vasodilation, or the widening of the blood vessels.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of American adults meet the daily 4,700-milligram recommendation.

Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all present in the potato. These have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

3) Heart health

The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.

Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Research based on the NHANES has linked a higher intake of potassium and a lower intake of sodium to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease.

4) Inflammation

Choline is an important and versatile nutrient that is present in potatoes. It helps with muscle movement, mood, learning, and memory.

It also assists in:

  • maintaining the structure of cellular membranes
  • transmitting nerve impulses
  • the absorption of fat
  • early brain development

One large potato contains 57 mg of choline. Adult males need 550 mg, and females 425 mg a day.

5) Cancer

Potatoes contain folate. Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so it prevents many types of cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables like potatoes are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

Vitamin C and quercetin also function as antioxidants, protecting cells against damage from free radicals.

6) Digestion and regularity

The fiber content in potatoes helps prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

7) Weight management and satiety

Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and weight loss.

They act as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. They increase satiety and reduce appetite, so a person feels fuller for longer and is less likely to consume more calories.

8) Metabolism

Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6. This plays a vital role in energy metabolism, by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body.

9) Skin

Collagen is the skin’s support system. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also helps collagen smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.

10) Immunity

Research has found that vitamin C may help reduce the severity and duration of a cold. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C.

So maybe you shouldn’t rush to cut potatoes out of your diet just yet.

However, there’s a certain group of people who should be extra careful of potatoes…

Who Should Not Eat Potatoes?

Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family of vegetables (e.g. bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.) that, although very nutritious, have been linked to complications in people with existing health issues such as autoimmune diseases and inflammatory bowel disease.

So, if you have any of the following…

  • sensitivity to nightshade plants
  • an autoimmune disease
  • high blood glucose levels
  • leaky gut syndrome
  • inflammatory bowel disease

…you need to think seriously about completely avoiding potatoes or, at the very least, severely limiting their consumption. But talk to your doctor / healthcare professional first.

Let’s summarize…

We now know that, as far as their purine and fructose content goes, potatoes are safe to eat in a well-balanced gout diet.

However, they are a high GI food capable of causing unhealthy increases in blood sugar levels, though this can be controlled, somewhat, through the way they are cooked and eaten. And of course through portion size and frequency of consumption.

But this negative aspect has to be weighed against their health benefits. And we mustn’t forget that they’re  a very cheap food.

So, for an otherwise healthy person, potatoes can be a valuable asset in their gout diet just as long as they are prepared in a healthy way, for example, by not frying and being very careful of fillings and sauces used.

On the other hand, if you suffer from any of the health issues listed above, you should perhaps avoid potatoes altogether. Again, seek advice from your doctor first.

Personally speaking, I have potatoes in my own gout diet but, even though they are no risk purine and fructose-wise, I consume them in moderation due to their overall sugar content. And I don’t have them every day. So I’m getting their nutritional benefits but reducing the GI risk. I’m also careful about how they are prepared and toppings and sauces used.