Need a Mood Boost? Go Bananas, Says a Nutritional Biochemist

This sunny yellow fruit has a happy superpower. Here's the science, from a researcher who specializes in the links between nutrition and mood.

children holding bananas in front of faces for smilesJGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Bananas Can Brighten Your Outlook

Ninety percent of Americans say they eat bananas at least once a month, making it the most popular fruit in the U.S.—and with good reason. Not only are bananas delicious in healthy banana bread and smoothies; but eaten alone, bananas are packed with healthy vitamins and nutrients. Among its multiple benefits, this sunny yellow fruit has a happy superpower: it can serve as a substantial mood-booster.

“Due to the state of the world right now, a lot of people are having problems with stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, brain fog, and sleeplessness,” says Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist who specializes in researching the links between nutrition and mood. If you can relate, Dr. Talbott offers his insight into why our collective love for bananas is a bright spot in the American diet.

Feeling the feels lately? Consider reading 5 Ways Stress-Eating Impacts Your Gut Health, Mood, and More, Say Specialists in Eating Psychology

How Bananas Boost Your Mood

Dr. Talbott explains the main reason bananas may be the ultimate mood food: one banana contains 20 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin B6. This vitamin is scientifically shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, dial down premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women, ameliorate the effects of stress, and improve mood overall, according to a 2019 meta-analysis of how B vitamins affect mood, published in Nature.

The trick is vitamin B6’s power to produce serotonin, a powerful brain neurotransmitter that’s nicknamed the “happy hormone.” Dr. Talbott adds that bananas are also high in prebiotic fiber and potassium, which are other nutrients linked to a good mood. (Read The Banana Health Benefit You for Sure Weren’t Aware Of, Dietitians Reveal)

In fact, people who ate a diet higher in potassium showed less symptoms of depression and a better mood overall, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Dr. Talbott explains that “vitamins, including B6, are one way to help support your body and mind in dealing with all of it,” he says.

The best way to get more B6 in your diet?  He advises eating whole foods like bananas (for the one in 10 folks who aren’t already crazy about this fruit), along with nuts, salmon, dark leafy greens, eggs, and milk.

Need more convincing? Read up on the link between bananas and better sleep. (Zzzz…)

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Sources

Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist, founder of Amare Global, and author of A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements

Nature: “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Dietary electrolytes are related to mood”

Dole: “Banana buff stuff”

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.