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Why Bananas Help Activate Vitamin D Supplements In The Body

July 20, 2020

Vitamin D is one of the most-consumed dietary supplements in the U.S.1—and for good reason. It plays an essential role in many of the body's processes, and research shows it can help support immunity, maintain healthy bones, and potentially boost brain health and memory formation.*

Also known as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D forms in our bodies when we're exposed to UV rays from the sun. The vitamin and hormone is also present in foods such as egg yolks, mushrooms, some fish, and certain fortified dairy products. Though unless you're eating cod liver oil at every meal or spending hours on end outdoors, it can be difficult to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D from food and sunlight alone. That's why some doctors suggest taking a nutritional supplement to ensure you're getting the 200 to 600 I.U.s of vitamin D per day the NIH recommends.

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"I often suggest that people take a supplement, especially if you live in a northern climate and don't get outside in the sun too often," Nicole Avena, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, recently told mbg.

And while you're at it, Avena also recommends pairing your daily vitamin with a daily banana.

Why bananas and vitamin D are a good pair.

Bananas are a good source of magnesium, which research shows plays an important role in vitamin D activation.* One review in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association2 concluded that it is "essential to ensure that the recommended amount of magnesium is consumed to obtain the optimal benefits of vitamin D" since magnesium helps activate vitamin D3 once it enters the bloodstream.*

Besides its high magnesium count, bananas also contain potassium and vitamins B6 and C. Get into the habit of peeling one back with your vitamin D in the morning or before bed (magnesium and potassium can also encourage relaxation). Or if bananas aren't your favorite, you can doctor them up into breads, pancakes, or muffins or take a magnesium supplement instead to ensure your levels are up to par.

When choosing a vitamin D supplement, Avena recommends looking vitamin D3 (as opposed to D2). mindbodygreen's hemp multi+ supplement combines vitamin D3 with full-spectrum hemp oil, hops, rosemary, black cumin seed, clove, and black pepper for a well-rounded formula that provides all the benefits of vitamin D while supporting mood and helping the body react to stress.*

The bottom line.

If you're already taking a vitamin D supplement, you might want to pair it with magnesium-rich foods such as bananas—especially if you suspect your magnesium levels are low.* Magnesium helps activate vitamin D in the body and ensures that you're reaping all of its benefits for immunity, bone health, and more.*

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.