Home Spotlights & Interviews Wellness The Truth Behind TikTok’s “Brain Foods” Trend


The Truth Behind TikTok’s “Brain Foods” Trend

Smart advice on so-called brain foods – what’s real and what’s just hype.

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Brain Foods
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Looking to beautify your brain?  Of course, there’s a social media trend that promises to do just that. (Well, sort of.) But how much is the “brain food” trend based on real science?  That’s exactly what we want to know!

TikTok has become one of the biggest platforms for superfood trends, with the newest fad—greens powder—accumulating 25.8M views. Google Trends shows that search volume for “greens powder” has soared by 426% in the first week of February alone.1

Ahead, the neuro experts at Brainworks Neurotherapy weigh in on the  trending “brain foods” on TikTok, and offer their recommendations on the foods that we should actually incorporate into our diets to reap the brain benefits.

Greens powders

The Hype: Greens powders are dietary supplements that contain powdered vegetables, fruits, and other nutrients, with brands claiming to offer a modern and convenient alternative for enhancing nutrient intake.

While not all brands make unrealistic claims of purported benefits of greens powders, some users push the supplement as a replacement for eating diverse fruits and vegetables, as a cure-all for bloating and even claim that they can support brain health.

The Truth: “Greens powders can be a practical way to supplement your diet with a variety of nutrients,” says James Roy, brain health expert at Brainworks Neurotherapy.  “These nutrients contribute to overall well-being and can help fill gaps in the diet, particularly for individuals who may not consume enough fruits and vegetables regularly.”

Greens powders may have the ability to boost energy levels due to high levels of Vitamin B, the vitamin responsible for energy production in the body and stimulating the brain. While greens powders can be a convenient way to boost nutrient intake, they should not be viewed as a replacement for whole fruits and vegetables in the diet.

The Bottom Line: While the beta-carotene, folate, lutein, Vitamin K, and other nutrients in green vegetables have brain benefits, such as helping to keep your brain sharper longer, Roy says there is not enough research done to definitively claim that these benefits carry over into powdered form. The processing and storage of greens powders may affect the bioavailability and efficacy of these nutrients compared to whole foods.

Matcha

The Hype: Matcha, a finely ground powder variant of green tea, has soared in popularity on TikTok (6.4 billion views) with users often sharing videos of iced or hot matcha latte recipes.

Some users claim that due to matcha containing L-theanine — an amino acid which has been shown to relieve stress, improve mood and help regulate sleeping patterns — matcha may have more brain benefits than simply drinking green tea.

The Truth: “While both matcha and regular green tea offer health benefits, matcha may have a slight edge due to its higher concentration of certain compounds and the fact that you consume the entire tea leaf, says Roy. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine in matcha has been shown to have positive effects on brain function. However, the differences between matcha and green tea are not dramatic.

The Bottom Line: Regular green tea offers many of the same cognitive benefits due to its rich content of antioxidants, L-theanine, and caffeine, without the potential cost and preparation complexities associated with matcha, Roy adds.

Avocados

The Hype: Avocados have soared in popularity amongst the Gen Z demographic and are now a frequent addition to breakfast menus. The “superfood” has garnered substantial attention on TikTok (9.2 billion views), with some users claiming avocado consumption can support brain health, attributed to the substantial Vitamin E content of the fruit.

The Truth: When asked if we should believe these claims, registered nutritional therapist at Nutrable, Caroline Hind, agreed that there are health benefits to consuming avocados, but there are more everyday food items you can add to your diet that will have the same results.

The Bottom Line: “It is true, but avocado isn’t essential for brain health. Eating a variety of nuts, seeds and green vegetables can meet the body’s Vitamin E needs and also provide the brain-supporting B vitamins that are also found in avocado.”

Açaí 

The Hype: Rumored to be packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, Açaí berries have become increasingly popular, with many flocking to TikTok to share their “Açaí bowls” — a blended variation of the fruit, often topped with nut butters, other fruits and granola. With 2.2 billion views on the platform, some users claim that Açaí berries may protect your brain from neurodegenerative diseases and help to improve memory.

The Truth: “Berry pigments (flavonoids) that give them their brilliant hues help improve memory and delay memory decline by two to three years; explains Roy. “Two servings of blueberries per week will keep your flavonoid levels up.”

The Bottom Line: The specific “brain benefits” of açaí berries are the subject of ongoing research, and claims about their cognitive effects should be approached with caution, advises Roy. While açaí berries are rich in antioxidants, which are known to have potential neuroprotective properties, he says there is limited direct evidence to conclusively support claims of significant cognitive benefits from consuming açaí berries specifically.”

Caroline Hind recognises the exotic berry as a beneficiary to our health, but notes that these same advantages can be found in alternative, cheaper and more readily available fruits. 

“When it comes to açaí, other darkly-colored berries can provide similar brain-boosting benefits. Eating some blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and raspberries every day is a good strategy if these more exotic berries are not available.”

The best foods for brain health, according to the experts
@monavand these are all amazing for cognition, memory & brain health 🧠🤍 #brainfoods #tipsandtricks ♬ Lazy Sunday - Official Sound Studio

When it comes to the foods that we should actually incorporate into our diets to reap the brain benefits, “trendy” superfoods from TikTok may not be the best place to get the vitamins and nutrients that our brains need to thrive. 

Below, Roy shares a list of the foods that he would recommend for ultimate brain health and why.

Green, leafy vegetables. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like Vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene which help keep you sharp and slow cognitive decline.

Fatty fish. Fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which helps keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay. Try to eat some salmon, cod or canned light tuna at least twice per week. If you’re not a fan of fish, an omega-3 supplement is a good substitute.

Berries. Berry pigments (flavonoids) that give them their brilliant hues help improve memory and delay memory decline by two to three years. Two servings of blueberries per week will keep your flavonoid levels up.

Tea and coffee. Caffeine offers more than just a short-term concentration boost, it helps alertness over the long-term and actually helps solidify new memories. As with most things too much can be harmful, but a cup or two in the morning can be quite helpful.

Walnuts. Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, and one type of nut in particular might also improve memory. Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is good for both the heart and brain.

All commentary included in this post represents informed opinions from brain health and dietary experts, however, it’s essential to remember that the information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. 

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Janene Mascarella