Food choices can help arthritis, inflammation

Arthritis diet

If you’re struggling with joint inflammation, consider making small changes to your diet that might make a big difference in how you feel. 

Registered dietitian Lauren Cicinelli, M.S., CSSD, said the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets can help people with arthritis and other problems in their joints. 

“It’s a lot of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in plant-based foods, a lot of the different types of those help to kind of manage that inflammation in the body,” Cicinelli said. “My approach when I’m working with people is to mix that in, so they feel a little bit better.” 

Both the Mediterranean and DASH plans focus on eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains, including fat-free or low-fat dairy products; limiting foods that are high in saturated fat; and cutting back on sugar-sweetened products such as soft drinks. 

“A Mediterranean diet is traditional, Cicinelli said. “It goes back thousands of years — vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and fish. That way of eating isn’t new, but our understanding of why it helps is a little bit newer. 

“Anti-inflammatory diets are more of a trendier thing, not necessarily a fad but has come up in conversation. I would definitely say there is more of an emphasis on the wellness side of our food on a daily basis.” 

Cicinelli said changes in diet aren’t always the first thing that comes to a patient’s mind when trying to help with a condition like arthritis, but they can be effective. 

“A lot of times we think about, how do we manage that inflammation? And a lot of people will think of medications,” she said. “So there are a lot of other things we can do to help support that individual, not just from a medication standpoint.” 

Cicinelli said factors under a patient’s control might not eliminate a condition like arthritis but can improve quality of life. 

“The way I think about it in my job, especially with patients with arthritis — if we can take their daily pain level from a 6 to a 5, that’s an improvement in quality of life,” she said. 

“It doesn’t need to be complicated. We’re not going to completely uproot everything from a nutrition standpoint. I like to focus on, what can we add? Can we add some brightly colored fruits and vegetables? Can we add some whole grains to maximize that benefit? 

“The goal is to try to find ways to make this realistic within their lifestyle and taking a step-wise approach to improving their health.” 

Here’s a recipe Cicinelli provided for improving joint health while not sacrificing flavor, and that can be prepared in just half an hour: 

Salmon in Parchment Paper

15 minutes prep time, 15 minutes cook time


  • 4 (5-ounce) skinless center-cut salmon filets 
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 medium lemon, zested, then sliced into thin rounds
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 4 small baby potatoes with their skins (yellow or red), sliced very thinly (to ⅛-inch)
  • 20 thin asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Chopped fresh dill, for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Season the salmon. Pat dry the salmon pieces and place them in a medium bowl. Season with the dried oregano, lemon zest, and a good pinch or two of salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix everything gently to combine. Set the bowl aside.
  • Assemble the bundles. Place a 12x16-inch piece of parchment paper on a clean surface with the widest side in front of you. Fold it in half vertically then open it again. Place ¼ of the sliced potatoes on one of the halves. Top the potatoes with 5 asparagus spears and sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper. Top with the salmon, then place three thin slices of lemon on top of the salmon and fold the second half of the parchment paper over the fish and vegetables. Repeat with the three remaining 12"x16" sheets of parchment paper for four “bundles” in total.
  • Seal the parchment paper bundles. Bring the edges together and then fold and crimp them, tucking the last fold under the packet, to completely enclose the packet. Do not fold too tightly, as the steam and the heat need some space to expand.
  • Bake the bundles. Place the 4 parchment paper bundles on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes; the total time will depend on the thickness of the salmon. At 15 minutes, the fish should be flakey and opaque.
  • Allow it to rest. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the pouches to sit on the countertop for about 4 to 5 minutes. With a knife, pierce the center of each parchment paper and carefully open it up slowly in case there is steam.
  • Serve. With a spatula, transfer each bundle to plates, drizzle with some more olive oil and top with a sprinkle of fresh dill. Serve at once.

Learn more about orthopedic care at Northside.


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