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Vitamins, Nutrition and Your Teenager

Teens often lack calcium and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and so on. You would be forgiven for thinking that cutting back on fat and sugar is enough to keep your teenager healthy, for we also need to make sure our diet provides teens with enough vitamins and nutrients.

Vitamins, minerals and nutrients are essential for keeping teens healthy and protecting them against illnesses. For example, milk products are needed to build bones and keep bones and teeth strong. Tofu or soy milk with added calcium is useful for teens that don’t like or are allergic to cheese and milk. Remember, fresh fruit and vegetable are important for providing vitamins and minerals which convert amino acids into the crucial neurotransmitters, while antioxidant vitamins C and E can help tackle harmful free-radical molecules (particles which are thought to accelerate cellular degeneration in the body) and are vital for promoting and preserving memory.

Talk to your teen and inform them that as you get older, you stop being able to build bones. So think of your bones as a savings account into which you deposit calcium from the food you eat and drink. Your bones store up the calcium to build your bones now and to keep them strong when you get older.

All fruit and vegetables are good for the teen body, but some are even better than others. How much should a teenager consume a day? Aim for at least five portions of fruit and veggies a day:

Blueberries contain up to five times as many antioxidants as apples or carrots, and when neuroscientists fed blueberries to lab rats, it slowed down age-related loss of mental capacity.

Red peppers contain 20 per cent more vitamin C than green peppers, and have 15 times more of the antioxidant beta-carotene.

Kidney beans and haricot beans are a good vegetarian source of protein, which provides amino acids for the brain, and are also high in minerals and carbohydrates.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach provide folic acid, which is vital for proper mental functioning (research has shown that children with behavioral difficulties such as Attention Deficit Disorder have lower levels of folic acid).

Furthermore, studying for exams is often the main focus for teenagers, which means exercising is far down the list of priorities. So look for ways to incorporate activity into everything you do, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off the bus one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way. Do this with a friend to make exercising as fun as possible. Remind you teen that Breakfast means “breaking the fast” and is the most important meal of the day. After 8-10 hours without food, the body needs to replace its blood sugar. Breakfast prepares teens for learning and studies show that students who regularly eat breakfast score higher on tests at school.

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