Supplements for Teens

Adolescence is a time of rapid growth, and proper nutrition is needed to fuel it. Unfortunately, things like school stress, peer pressure, busy schedules, body image issues and increased independence can lead to less than ideal eating habits for today's teens. Teens tend to eat away from home more, snack with their friends, opt for high calorie/low nutrition junk food or skip meals altogether. Some teens experiment with vegetarianism or trendy diets; while others suffer from anorexia, bulimia and obesity.

Most parents know they should ensure their growing children eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products, but it's hard enough to get a toddler to eat their broccoli let alone a surly teenager. If food intake is questionable, supplements may be warranted and luckily there is an array of products formulated for the specific needs of the growing adolescent. Pills may be too difficult for them to swallow, but various chewable or liquid multivitamin products are available. Just try to find one that doesn't contain any artificial coloring or preservatives.

So what vitamins and minerals are required for all those growth spurts and puberty changes? Teens need lots of bone-building calcium and magnesium as nearly half of all skeletal growth occurs in those years. Vitamin D is necessary to help teens absorb calcium efficiently, plus it helps build strong teeth. The B vitamins are essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and for generating all of that youthful energy. Teens have an increased need for iron; boys gain a lot of muscle mass which requires an increase in blood flow; while girls need to replace what gets lost through menstruation. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene help teen bodies fight free radicals that can lead to illness and disease. While saturated fats should be limited to 10% of a daily diet, essential fatty acids are necessary for optimum brain development, among other benefits.

Along with the increase in body fat and muscle mass that occurs during adolescence, teenage girls require 2200 calories per day and teenage boys require 2500 to 2900 per day. If diet alone isn't providing an adequate array of vitamins and minerals, supplements can be a dose of insurance.

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