Need a brain boost? One way to improve memory and cognition, and reduce your risk of age-related mental decline is to take a look at what’s on your plate. While there are certain foods that have been tied to better brain health — walnuts, salmon, berries, leafy greens — if you want to protect your thinker, it’s all about your overall dietary habits, not any individual food. In fact, research has found that specific dietary patterns can improve your brain health. These include a vegetarian diet, the Mediterranean Diet, and the latest to the table — the MIND Diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.

While each of these diets are unique, they have many things in common that can have been shown to increase brain health and reduce risk of age-related cognitive decline. You’re never too young to start taking care of your body and brain, so here’s what you can do right now to protect your brain later on:

Power up with Plants

All three of these dietary patterns have one big thing in common — they emphasize eating plant based foods in their natural form. That includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Make these the base of your plate at most eating occasions and you’ll set a solid foundation for brain health.

Swap refined grains for whole grains

Two important things for brain health include reducing inflammation and managing blood sugar. Whole grains not only contain important vitamins and minerals, but they also come with fiber and some protein, both of which can help regulate your blood sugar. Replacing refined grains with whole grains has also been linked to reduced inflammation. Oats are the foundation of BeBOLD bars, providing 18g of whole grains per bar.

Bump Up Your Omega-3 Intake

Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can be found in fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel are 3 of the best sources) as well as in walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seed. If you don’t eat fish, that’s ok, aim to get even more omega-3s from nuts and seeds. BeBOLD bars contain both walnuts and chia seeds, which can contribute to your daily omega-3 intake.

Eat a Wide Variety of Colorful Produce

Fruits and vegetables are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds that can help contribute to brain health. Powerhouses include leafy greens and berries, but the most important thing is to get a wide variety of both fruits and vegetables and aim to eat the rainbow.

Bottom Line

No one food is going to make you smarter or cause you to lose your memory. Instead, focus on your overall dietary pattern to support your brain and aim to include each of these categories of foods in your diet on a regular basis.

Sarah Gold Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian and the owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and nutrition communications consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. She empowers busy moms to learn to eat to feel their best without the stress.

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