You can keep your mind fit and nimble as you age—and ward off problems like inflammation and less brain flexibility—by doing many of the same things that keep the rest of your body youthful. Start with a Mediterranean diet: colorful vegetables, whole grains, and fish and other healthy fats. Get plenty of exercise, too; it’ll literally jog your memory. “Everything that’s good for the heart is good for the prevention of cognitive decline,” says Alan Logan, ND, author of The Brain Diet  (Cumberland House, 2007). These smart, research-backed nutrients can help keep your brain sharp for many years to come.

Prevent inflammation

Researchers believe chronic, low-grade inflammation in the brain plays a part in aging, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and possibly memory decline. These anti-inflammatory supplements may help keep your temporal lobes healthy as you age.

Omega-3s. Taking essential fatty acids—DHA, in particular—keeps inflammation at bay and promotes brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein helps the brain’s nerve cells branch out and communicate with each other, which is essential for learning and memory. To keep DHA levels optimal, avoid trans fats. “Trans fat may displace DHA [in the brain cells], which can lead to poor brain function,” says Gene Bowman, ND, assistant professor of neurology at the Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

  • Doses: 1,000–2,000 mg of DHA and EPA daily.

Antioxidants. Plant-based antioxidants such as green tea extract, grapeseed extract, resveratrol, and curcumin may protect brain function. “Curcumin, the yellow component of curry, is like a protective shield for brain cells against the effects of aging and cognitive decline,” Logan says. People with sharper minds have higher concentrations of antioxidant vitamins C and E in their blood, along with B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, according to research by Bowman’s team. “The B, C, D, and E combination seems to be most beneficial in preserving attention, executive function skills [such as decision-making], and language,” he says.

  • Doses: Follow label recommendations.