Adolescence is a transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, when bodies undergo rapid change. Ideally the period between the ages of ten and nineteen is considered adolescence, however it varies from person to person depending on various elements such as genetics, nutrition etc. Adolescence is characterized by a lot of factors such as physical growth, attempts at establishing an identity of one’s own, desire for independence, among other things.
One’s diet during adolescence lays the foundation of their health for the rest of their life. In today’s world, where mass media plays a huge role in everybody’s life, and where fast food is easily available at competitive rates, it is absolutely essential to monitor the nutritional intakes of adolescents. Let us find out more about some of the essential nutrients required by adolescents.
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients required during adolescence. Protein is made up of twenty amino acids out of which only eleven can be effectively manufactured by the body. The remaining nine has to be obtained through food intake. Protein is essential to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails. It also plays an important role in tissue recovery and regeneration incase of injuries. The right amount of protein helps maintain a healthy body weight. Protein can be obtained from non vegetarian sources like fish, meat, eggs and vegetarian sources like paneer, tofu and soybean.
Calcium is needed more in the adolescence stage than any other stages because during this time, the body undergoes a massive spurt in skeletal growth. Calcium intake during adolescence ensures proper deposition of calcium in the bones, resulting in stronger and healthier bones and lesser chance of diseases like low bone density and osteoporosis in later stages of life. Calcium is also responsible for bone growth and helps in reaching optimum height. Calcium can be obtained from food sources such as milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables like lettuce and kale, pulses and can also be administered in the form of food supplements.
The nutrient iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells. The iron in red blood cells helps carry oxygen, which is important for energy generation. The growth spurts during adolescence results in increased blood volume and therefore a greater need for iron to carry oxygen for energy production. Appropriate amount of iron in diet helps prevent anemia, which is very common among young adults, particularly girls. It is especially important for adolescent girls, as the beginning of menstruation results in additional iron requirements by the body. Iron can be obtained from red meat, liver, fruits, quinoa, spinach, pumpkin seeds etc. Iron supplement capsules are also widely available in the markets.
Vitamin C is essential for maintaining healthy skin as it promotes collagen production. Vitamin A plays an important role in immunity development and growth. It also helps maintain normal vision and prevents diseases like night blindness.Vitamin D is important for absorption of calcium for strong bones. Vitamins can be obtained by including citric fruits, nuts, carrots, spinach in the diet.
Healthy fats are as much needed by the growing bodies as any other nutrients. It is an important source of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids which are essential for various bodily functions. Fats help the body in utilizing fat soluble vitamins. Above all, it supplies energy to the ever growing demands of the body. Nuts and fatty fishes are excellent sources of healthy fats.
Nutrients like protein, vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc and fats are essential for growth during the adolescence phase. The right amount of nutrients during adolescence ensures lesser trips to the doctor in later stages of life.