As health and wellness consciousness has risen to new heights following the global pandemic, including trends such as the “clean girl aesthetic”, the wellness economy has increased its global market value to approximately 4.4 trillion.
Interestingly, search volumes for “superfoods” peaked in 2023, soaring by 123% in the first quarter. But with this meteoric rise comes “fauxperts” and influencers looking to push the latest fads to consumers, which may or may not be backed by the latest health advice.
With this in mind, the brain health experts at Brainworks Neurotherapy sought to debunk trending “brain foods” on TikTok and offer their recommendations on the foods we should incorporate into our diets to reap the brain benefits.
Debunking the brain benefits of trending superfoods
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.
When asked if we should believe these claims, a registered nutritional therapist at Nutrable, Caroline Hind, agreed that consuming avocados has health benefits. Still, you can add more everyday food items to your diet that will have the same results.
“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 provide the brain-supporting B vitamins found in avocado.”
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 matcha containing L-theanine – an amino acid shown to relieve stress, improve mood and help regulate sleeping patterns – may have more brain benefits than simply drinking green tea.
James Roy, the brain health expert from Brainworks Neurotherapy, comments on the reported “brain benefits” of drinking matcha: “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.
“The combination of L-theanine and caffeine in matcha has been shown to affect brain function positively. However, the differences between matcha and green tea are not dramatic.
“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.”
Rumoured 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 butter, 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.
James Roy commented on the benefits berries can have on the brain: “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.
The specific “brain benefits” of açaí berries are the subject of ongoing research, and claims about their cognitive effects should be cautiously approached. While açaí berries are rich in antioxidants, which are known to have potential neuroprotective properties, 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. “Regarding açaí, other darkly-coloured berries can provide similar brain-boosting benefits.
“Eating some blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and raspberries daily is a good strategy if these more exotic berries are unavailable.”
The best foods for brain health, according to the experts
Regarding the foods we should 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.
James Roy, the brain health expert from Brainworks Neurotherapy, has listed the foods 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 help keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay. Eat some salmon, cod or canned light tuna at least twice weekly. 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 helps solidify new memories. As with most things, too much can be harmful, but a cup or two in the morning can be helpful.
- Walnuts. Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats; one type of nut in particular might also improve memory. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is good for the heart and brain.