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Ask Elsa: Joint pain and diet

Q I regularly suffer with joint pain and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to deal with the pain. A colleague mentioned that my diet may be aggravating the problem, is this true?

A One of the best natural methods of coping with joint pain is by changing your diet. Pain in the joints is generally caused by inflammation. Certain foods can increase inflammation so I recommend that you reduce or eliminate them from your diet.

Eating high-fat meats, fried and fast foods will increase inflammation. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and saturated fats. Processed meats, such as ham and sausages also contain chemicals called nitrates that are associated with increased inflammation.

Cut down on red meat, peanuts and dairy products as these contain high levels of arachidonic acid, a type of fatty acid that increases inflammation. Try using non-dairy alternatives to milk such as oat or almond milk and alternate red meat with vegetable sources of protein such as beans and lentils.

A diet high in sugar, caffeine or alcohol is also associated with inflammation. Vegetables or fruit which are part of the nightshade family trigger pain in some people -- they include potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and peppers. Keep a food diary to see whether certain foods are contributing to your pain.

Q There seems to be a lot of conflicting information surrounding which oils and fats are most beneficial for good health. Which ones would you recommend?

AIt is important to purchase quality oil which is cold pressed from the seed rather than ones extracted with chemical solvents and heat processes as this degrades the vitamin E levels within.

Cold pressed extra virgin oils are made with no heat, via one pressing of the seed, so the chemical structure of lipids within the oil is not changed, leaving it in its natural state for better absorption and health-giving properties. The healthiest oils to use internally are extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oils (linseed oil) and small amounts of coconut oil.

If you like to stir fry you should know that cooking oil to high temperatures changes the chemical structure of the oil, which destroys the health benefits. When stir frying try to continually add water to stop temperatures from getting too high.

Use oil liberally on salads or at the end of the meal when the food is taken off the heat and, remember, the best way to store oils is in a dark glass bottle, away from direct light.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You?'on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations to meet your individual health requirements and group nutrition courses. www.elsajones nutrition.ie