alive logo
foodfamilylifestylebeautysustainabilityhealthimmunity

Teen Tanks Need Heavy Fuel

Share

Teenagers need lots of calories each day to keep up their energy for sports and activities and still have some left over for building muscles and bones. The common tendency is to resort to fast and convenient foods that are cheap and abundant. Too often good nutrition gives way to the stimulation of salt, sugar and additives.

Growing teenagers have huge appetites. As parents know, the sheer volume of food a youth can pack away can empty a family's fridge!

Teenagers need lots of calories each day to keep up their energy for sports and activities and still have some left over for building muscles and bones. The common tendency is to resort to fast and convenient foods that are cheap and abundant. Too often good nutrition gives way to the stimulation of salt, sugar and additives.

Any refined food has less vitamins and minerals than an organic whole food, which contains enzymes, vitamins and mineral cofactors that the body requires for digestion, absorption and utilization. If there is not enough of these "micronutrients" in foods, tissue reserves and bones will be robbed. In time, depletion of micronutrients will cause fatigue, skin problems, mood swings, immune weakness, reduced athletic performance, impaired learning and even stunted growth and development.

Many vitamins are water-soluble and wash out of the body rapidly, so they are needed in the diet every day. Vitamin B-complex is important for general chemistry and energy production and is essential for the brain and nerves. Whole grains are a terrific source.

The body burns sugars and fats with oxygen to create energy. It also uses oxygen to get rid of toxins such as pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, drugs and the chemicals in the food chain. Plants make and collect antioxidants to repair their own biochemistry and damage from the sun's ultraviolet radiation. If teens do not eat a lot of clean, whole plant foods, then they should supplement with antioxidant-rich food concentrates such as green drinks, barley green powder or vitamin and mineral combinations.

Specific antioxidants include vitamins C and E, the carotenes, the bioflavonoids and the mineral selenium. These control harsh byproducts of oxygen (free radicals), which damage the cells. Don't settle for the dosage set as the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This will merely prevent deficiency disease. We are not simply trying to prevent scurvy with 75 mg of vitamin C. We need at least 1,000 mg a day or more to reduce the frequency of colds and flus.

If adolescents don't eat green vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds and whole foods regularly, they deplete their reserves of important nutrients. The vitamin E contained in these foods is important for sexual development and fertility and helps control the oxidation of cholesterol, which is the building block from which sex hormones are made.

Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and help the immune cells. The skin can make this vitamin when exposed to natural sunlight, but in the Canadian winter, an increase of vitamin D, usually in the form of fish oil capsules, is needed.

Calcium and magnesium are needed for bones and muscles. During growth spurts teenagers cannot get enough from what they would likely consider a very good diet. Manganese is a trace mineral especially needed for ligaments, which hold the bones together.

Zinc is a soluble mineral that effectively helps to control acne. Chromium is a trace mineral that disappears during cooking and processing; in concert with the B vitamins and zinc, it's critical to blood sugar balance and will help to keep moods and vital energy more stable.

Skipping meals stresses the blood sugar system, forcing the adrenal glands and liver to create alternative energy sources. This increases the need for vitamin B5 pantothenic acid. Brain chemistry for good school and sports performance depends on nutritious foods containing vitamins B12 and B6, folic acid, magnesium, lecithin and the omega-3 essential fatty acids. These "smart vitamins" can also help correct attention deficit disorder.

Teenagers are active and busy. Do they need a daily vitamin and mineral supplement? If they eat, drink or breathe, they do. If they walk, talk or think, they need nutritional balance!

Sometimes parents find that shopping, preparing and cooking whole foods every day takes a lot of time and attention. It really only requires good planning, such as soaking legumes, nuts and grains over night. Use a crock pot and, even more importantly, teach teens the nutritional value of raw foods. Salads, with a variety of vegetables, should be a part of the daily diet.

I recommend topping the teenage nutrition tank with a few octane-boosting additives. A small effort and cost for a good multivitamin with minerals and a few extra antioxidants can make the difference in growing into inner strength and outer attractiveness.

Ad
Advertisement
Advertisement

READ THIS NEXT

Easy Does It

Easy Does It

Yoga guru Tara Stiles’ new approach to wellness is grounded in the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. Here’s how to apply its teachings to find balance in your life.

Rachel B. Levin

Rachel B. Levin

The Delicious Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

The Delicious Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Treat yourself to the body-loving ways of this luxurious delight

Laura Newton

Laura Newton