Found: The One Underrated Fruit This RD Loves For Balancing Mood
When it comes to brain-healthy foods, you likely don't need to search high and low to find the most beneficial players (in fact, you probably have more than a few at your disposal already). Take it from registered dietitian and integrative functional medicine practitioner Ali Miller, R.D., L.D., CDE: The author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, and The Anti-Anxiety Cookbook, she pinpoints a bunch of produce that can help calm inflammation and quell anxiety (which, she explains on the mindbodygreen podcast, are inextricably linked).
So, which foods top the mood-boosting grocery list? Well, according to Miller, we should pay more attention to the humble banana.
Why bananas are great for balancing mood.
"They're high in vitamin B6," Miller says, which is necessary for creating the neurotransmitters that help your body make serotonin and dopamine—both of which influence mood. In fact, one study showed that low levels of vitamin B6 were associated with depressive symptoms in older adults. That's not to say the vitamin is a viable treatment for depression, per se, but a deficiency seems to have an effect.
"They also provide tryptophan, which is fantastic for mood stability," Miller adds. Tryptophan, it turns out, also plays a role in creating serotonin, and research shows that low levels of the amino acid are associated with depression and anxiety.
Mood-boosting benefits aside, bananas have their fair share of health benefits: "They have soluble fiber, which is great support for the microbiome," Miller adds (as you may know, any food that's great for the gut is also simultaneously brain-healthy), and bananas are a good source of magnesium. Plus, they're naturally sweet, which is why Miller uses a 12th of a banana in many of her baking recipes—a smidgen won't affect the taste too much (just in case you're not in the mood for a banana-flavored treat), but that bit alone can enhance the sweetness of all your baked goods.
Sure, bananas aren't exactly groundbreaking, but according to Miller, it's time for the vitamin-rich fruit to receive the recognition it deserves. Bananas have loads of mood-supporting minerals and amino acids that make them a worthwhile addition to your grocery cart. Consider it another excuse to concoct creamy smoothies or—in 2020 fashion—whip up some sweet banana bread.
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.