Most people adopt a healthy diet to lose weight, prevent certain diseases, or manage a pre-existing condition. Usually, the diets these people choose will promise a slimmer physique and healthier organs, like the heart, kidneys and liver. But what about the organ that serves as the center of our nervous system? Food plays an important role in how our brain functions, and just like any other organ, healthy food will help it thrive while unhealthy food causes harm.

It may not occur to us that what we put in our bodies also has an impact on our cognitive health. However, evidence continues to show that different foods can act like brain boosters, improving our intelligence, alertness, focus, and memory. Researchers have even identified specific foods capable of preventing disease, such as Alzheimer’s. These include berries, salmon and other fatty fishes, olive oil, kale, spinach, beets, and even maple syrup.

If you ever find yourself searching the grocery store aisles for food that will improve your brain health, then you should know which nutrients to look for. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, and nuts have been shown to protect cognitive function by improving object recognition, memory, spatial and localized memory, and aversive response retention — when an unpleasant event elicits negative emotions, so we try to avoid such a thing from happening again in the future. Meanwhile, researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture continue to study the effects of antioxidants found in berries, and how they can prevent memory loss as we age.

As you add foods with brain-healthy nutrients to your diet, also consider eliminating foods that hinder cognitive function. Eating precooked or processed foods has been shown to stimulate excess production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. Similar to the effects drugs have on addicts, overproducing dopamine from eating can lead to unnecessary food cravings. A diet high in trans fats might also shrink the brain, and possibly cause Alzheimer’s.