Their children’s teenage years fill parents with dread. The perceived view of adolescence includes late nights, puberty, rows, girlfriends or boyfriends and goodness knows what but the most significant changes, and perhaps the biggest problems, result from the major physiological changes their offspring experience.
The teenage years are of course the time during which the body grows considerably and childhood turns to adulthood. As the body undergoes such great changes, nutrition is more important than ever and it might even be a good time to consider the use of nutritional health supplements to ensure the body has the goodness it requires. All teenagers need to be properly prepared for the stresses they face.
Unfortunately another side to this stage in life involves rebellion so canny parents will teach good eating habits well in advance to ensure the health of their children. But no matter how wise their parents are, the teenagers need to understand whether what they eat is doing them good and what nutrition their bodies need.
A substance needed by teenagers is iron. In Great Britain research has shown that 27% of adolescent girls and 13% of boys in the same age range do not have sufficient iron. Teenagers are usually, and need to be, very active and iron is essential to their well-being as it is essential in ensuring the blood carries oxygen to the muscles and other important areas. The teenage brain is developing and so is under great stress and iron contributes to an effective brain function. Not only this but iron contributes significantly to the health of the immune system.
Menstruation in young women also reduces the level of iron so this needs to be understood too.
Red meat is a great source of iron but then so are bread, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables and breakfast cereals. As ever, consuming iron-rich foods in your diet is the best way to ensure the levels of this useful substance, but good quality nutritional health supplements may also be needed. Consuming the right amounts of vitamin C, either from the right foods (such as citrus fruits) or from nutritional health supplements helps the absorption of iron. Interestingly however tea should be avoided, as the tannin in tea will reduce the effectiveness of the body to take in iron so a fruit juice would be a better alternative.
The growth experienced by most teenagers means that calcium is also an essential nutrient at this time. Calcium is essential to bone development and studies have shown that the bone growth in adolescence significantly affects the strength of the skeleton in later years. The evidence shows that a little as a 5% improvement in bone mass during these important years may well lead to a 40% reduction in bone fractures in later life.
The dangers of osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease, can be greatly lessened in adult years by the correct nutrition in teenage years. Sadly however the UK National Diet And Nutrition Survey of Young People Aged 4-18 Years shows that one in four adolescents have calcium levels lower than the accepted limit for proper health; this indicates a likely bone health problem in the future.
The best sources of calcium are dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese although once again good nutritional health supplements could be considered.
There is never a good substitute for a healthy balanced diet and the importance of regular meals to teenagers cannot be overstated. Sadly of course the foods normally chosen by adolescents are sugar-rich and fatty food and drinks. What they need to eat for the best nutrition include lots of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates (such as rice, bread and potatoes), two servings of protein (fish, meat or eggs) and dairy products. Also important are six to eight glasses of fluid every day plus the all-important regular exercise to ensure cardiovascular health, bone growth and general fitness.
Modern influences make the teenage period even more complicated. Mass media and peer pressure leads to often unreasonable expectations and many young people use various methods to lose weight. Sadly governments have not helped by emphasizing the problem of obesity. As with adults, the ‘perfect’ sized person will only be achieved with a healthy, balanced diet and moderate exercise but regrettably fad diets are too common. Such unbalanced programmes can reduce the essential nutrients fed to the body and can even lead to the modern curse of eating disorders.
The main two eating disorders, bulimia and anorexia, affect 6 to 11 million Americans and 1.6 million people in Great Britain. It is generally seen as a problem affecting women but a growing number of young men seem to be suffering too. If you are a parent and you are concerned your teenager may have an eating disorder, it is important to get professional help urgently.
In reality nutrition is a very interesting subject and some parents have found a great way to ensure their children understand the need to eat correctly is to involve them in preparing and cooking food as early as possible. This gives them the opportunity to know how to look after themselves later in life and understand what a good diet looks like.
During the period of massive changes between childhood and adulthood, a person needs to have the right nutrition to set him or her up for life. There is no doubt that it is worth while getting the intake of goodness right, whether from a healthy diet or from nutritional health supplements.