Bananas as Brain Food

With just 121 calories, less than half a gram of fat, no cholesterol, and 3.5 grams of fiber, a large banana is a smart choice for anyone trying to follow a nutritious diet without gaining weight. A wide array of research suggests that eating bananas may make you seem smarter, as some of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in bananas play a role in keeping your brain functioning at its optimal level.

Vitamin B6 and Cognitive Function

Getting an adequate amount of vitamin B6 may help improve your cognitive function. A large banana provides about .5 milligrams of the 1.1-to-1.7 milligrams of vitamin B6 the Institute of Medicine recommends you get each day. In a 1996 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” researchers from Boston’s Tufts University gave a series of cognitive tests to 70 men, aged 54 to 81. They found that the men with higher concentrations of vitamin B6 performed better on two measures of memory than those with lower levels.


When your body metabolizes protein, it produces ammonia, according to the Franklin Institute. Magnesium activates an enzyme that converts ammonia to urea so your body can dispose of it. Even a small amount of brain ammonia can hinder your ability to focus and pay attention, so eating magnesium-rich foods are beneficial for improving your brain function. A large banana gives you 37 milligrams of magnesium, a mineral that helps facilitate the electrical activity between the nerve cells in your brain. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get 265-to-350 milligrams of magnesium per day.

Mood Regulation

A large banana gives you 12 milligrams each of tryptophan and tyrosine, amino acids your body uses to make neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate your mood, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Getting an adequate amount of these amino acids may help you stay calm and focused while lessening feelings of anxiety and stress. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get 47 milligrams of tyrosine and 7 milligrams of tryptophan per day.

Fructose Energy

The cells in your brain use glucose as fuel. Your brain cannot store it, so you must continually supply glucose to your brain through the food you eat. When you eat refined sugars, such as sweet cereals, candy, and pastries, your body quickly depletes the carbohydrate content, especially from the sucrose, leaving you feeling sluggish and hungry again hours later. The fiber in a banana slows the breakdown and release of its sugars, mainly from fructose, into your bloodstream, according to the Franklin Institute. Because your body uses fruit sugar more gradually than refined sugar, a banana is a good way to get a steady stream of brain fuel.


  1. Institute of Medicine: Daily Reference Intakes
  2. Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes – Macronutrients

Important Notice: This article was originally published at by  Maia Appleby where all credits are due.


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