Optimizing Nutrition for Teens

Optimizing Nutrition for Teens

During adolescence, the body’s demand for nutrients increases.  There is also more risk for nutrient deficiencies as teens tend to make poorer food choices.   Girls start to limit food due to peer pressure and body image.  Boys tend to eat more nutritionally poor processed and packaged foods.  Fast foods often make up a big part of a teenager’s diets.  

How can we motivate teens to eat well?  Talking to teens about how the right foods can help them grow, increase energy, improve sports performance, maintain weight, promote healthy skin, and do better in school can appeal to teenagers who are appearance conscious.  Parents can play a part by not buying or allowing junk food in the house and by setting a good example.  Take your teen grocery shopping and get them to help with dinner planning.  Help them make the connection between healthy food and optimal health. 

Along with ensuring adequate sleep and hydration, supplementing your teens diet can also be beneficial.  A good time to supplement is during their main growth period.  This occurs between 11-16 for girls, and between 13-18 for boys.  Teen brains in particular have extra nutritional needs as their brains undergo a remodeling phase.  The following nutrients are some of my favorites for optimal brain development and support in teens:

Omega 3 fats- Essential fatty acids for vital for proper development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.  They are also important for hormone production, formation of healthy cell membranes, and supports healthy skin and hair.  If teens are not getting at least 2 meals of fatty fish every week, add an EFA/cod liver oil supplement.

Choline- a water soluble macronutrient that supports neuro plasticity, boosts memory, and enhances intellectual skills and concentration.  Choline can also be found in eggs, liver, nuts, beans, leafy greens, oysters, and fish.

L-Theanine- an amino acid found primarily in black and green tea.  It has been shown to reduce stress improve sleep, improve concentration and alertness.  Studies have also shown L-theanine to be effective at reducing anxiety. 

For more information and to learn which nutrients would benefit your teen, speak to your holistic nutritionist!

References:

Nobre A, Rao A, Owen G. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 (SI):1670168

Poly, C, Massaro JM, Seshadre S, Wolf PA, Cho E, Krail E, Jacques PF, Au R. The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyper-intensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.  Am J Clin Nutr December 2011 vol. 94 no. 6 1584-1591

Photo: Optim Health

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