Diets – Helpful Information
Active ImageThree minerals are especially important during the adolescent years, but that doesn’t mean that total diet isn’t important, too. Teens won’t get enough calcium, iron and zinc—plus the energy and protein they need to grow—without eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
Calcium: About 99 percent of calcium in the body is found in the bones and teeth. Because almost half of the adult skeleton forms during adolescence, teens—especially girls—need plenty of calcium (1,500 milligrams per day). Symptoms of calcium deficiency aren’t likely to appear until much later in life. Getting enough calcium during the teen years helps girls fulfill their peak bone mass potential. The more bone mass a girl builds, the better off she will be as bone is lost later in life and osteoporosis becomes a threat.
Ironically, just when they need calcium the most, young girls tend to consume less. Teenage girls shy away from milk and dairy products, the richest sources of calcium, because they perceive these foods as fattening. As a result, most young girls are likely not to get the calcium they need. But recent studies show that girls can include dairy products in their everyday diet without gaining weight. Substituting yogurt for high-calorie, high-fat snacks and milk for high-calorie soft drinks are two steps in the right direction.
Iron: Anemia can strike during infancy and adolescence—times when the body is building trillions of new red blood cells to carry oxygen and nutrients to a growing body. Teenage girls who diet and those who have heavy- menstrual bleeding are at risk for developing iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, headache and irritability. Girls who are not yet menstruating require 12.5 milligrams of iron daily. After menarche the requirement jumps to 18 milligrams daily. Poultry, lean meats, legumes, green vegetables and iron-fortified cereal are good sources of iron.
Zinc: Essential for protein synthesis and growth, zinc is also particularly important for sexual maturation. For teenage girls the recommended daily intake is 12 milligrams. Good sources are poultry, lean meats, dairy products, legumes and whole.