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Nutrition for teens and young adults

Luke Coutinho

Luke Coutinho
20 April 2020

This article is authored by Luke Coutinho. Luke is a globally renowned and award winning Holistic Lifestyle Coach in the field of Integrative Medicine.

The foundation of good health that one observes in adulthood has to be laid down much before during the teenage years. In fact, the secret to actualize good health in adulthood is to pay attention to one’s nutritional needs during the teen years. Teenage is the time for the utmost growth in the body and it is the time when the teen is growing physically, emotionally, intellectually and physiologically and in many other ways too!


Radish

As the teen continues to grow, fulfilling the daily nutritional needs is quite essential - as it helps them to stay healthy and in a happy state of mind. Taking good nutrition and at least the ones which are quintessential for the growth of the teen is a way to ensure that their body and mind are building up in a healthy manner.

It’s important to make sure that your teen is consuming good nutritional food with plenty of liquids and cultivate a positive rapport with food so that in the long run there’s admittedly less space for poor eating habits.

Meanwhile, let’s have a quick look at some of the important and basic nutrition that teens need to consume during their growing times.

Macronutrients

Good carbs: Good carbs such as whole grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, yogurt, and legumes are rich in fibre, nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. Good carbs are a vital nutrient for providing energy to teens for daily activities, keeps their immune system strong, braces their cognitive function as well as lifts up their mood. Including good carbs in daily diets is important to have good health as they are the quickest sources of energy for growing teens Important to consider that lack of good carbs can result in mood swings and unexplained cravings.

Most of the teens happen to consume more than required carbs and that too not from unhealthy sources. Junk foods are sources of bad carbs that lead to body weight gain without giving any nutritional value to the body. While encouraging them to add carbs to their daily diet, they must also be taught the difference between refined carbs and unrefined/complex or good carbs.

Quality protein:

 

Eat Breakfast

Make sure your teen is consuming good sources of protein such as eggs, meat, fish and poultry, milk and milk products, seeds and nuts, almonds, dry beans, lentils peas, legumes - which have high protein nutritional value. Making protein a part of daily diet comes with umpteen benefits as it works as building blocks of the body, improves the immune system while giving enhances the lustre and quality of hair. It also happens to be helpful for muscle recovery for teens that are into sports and athletic activities.

Good fats: it’s important that teens consume fats knowing the difference between good or bad fat(present in packed snacks, chips, cookies, cakes, pizza) that causes a good or ill impact on their health all at once. Fats act as fuel for the body and help the teens to build their nerve tissues, hormones and brain tissues. The good fats are unsaturated fats which are vital parts of a nutritional diet. It’s beneficial to include sources of good fats to enhance the nutritional value of your teens’ diet such as – coconut oil, ghee chia & flax seeds, nuts, walnuts. Spinach, brussel sprouts, fish (salmon) linseed oil, pumpkin & sesame seed.

Micronutrients

Playing a very significant role - micronutrients such as iron, vitamin D3, calcium and zinc are required for maintaining good health. These micronutrients have an important role to play in the continuance of tissue functions and metabolism of the body. Vitamin D3 and calcium are responsible for maintaining healthy bones, steady immunity and hormonal health. While zinc has a role to play in hormonal health, gut health, bettering skin and immunity as well. Iron being a central micronutrient plays a conclusive part in a teenager’s diet as also a lack of it could cause anaemia, hair fall, lack of energy, and lethargy.

Seeing the above nutritional requirements of teenagers, it’s imperative for them to understand the value of consuming the right nutrition for their health and overall growth. All they need is the right guidance, care, and compassion from parents and family. There are certain nutritional challenges teens most often seem to deal with:

Addiction to junk – E.g. consuming sugary foods and beverages, and salt particularly in packed snacks, chips, wafers, etc. This addiction to junk has become the main reason for abdominal obesity and for spiked sugar levels in teens today.

Chasing fad diets – Being tempted by the idea that following a diet can make them look good and popular among the coterie, teenagers often switch to fad-diets. Fad-diets include low-carb diets, cookie diet, grapefruit diet which leads to serious nutritional deficiencies.

Nutrition for a healthy menstrual cycle:

As the menstrual cycle is one of the fundamental and natural processes generously takes place in girls’ bodies in teenage year. The diet and the menstrual cycle share a complementary relation and whatever the diet is taken during this time does have an impact on the cycle. Let’s talk about the nutrition that helps in the menstrual cycle.

Iron and folic acid-rich foods: Because haemoglobin is a part of blood and a lot of it is lost during the menstrual cycle also a deficiency of it might cause symptoms like headache, fatigue, weakness thus, it’s good to take iron-rich foods like Moringa, green leafy vegetables, cumin seeds, beetroot, garden cress seeds, and dates.

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Here’s a special mention about Moringa which has umpteen benefits in the menstrual cycle. People in South India use it as the drumsticks in Sambar and other vegetable preparations - but not many look at the power of nutrients in the leaves that can help with anaemia, immunity, the health of malnourished teens and young girls, rural as well as urban. It is nature's multivitamin. Moringa powder is rich in vitamin A and zinc that encourages hair to grow and keep it in good condition. In addition, moringa powder is rich in vitamins B, C and E, biotin, and inositol that provide nutrients to help improve scalp circulation and maintaining capillaries that carry blood to the follicles.

Good fats: Good fats help balance the hormonal ups and downs that place during the menstrual cycle. It also helps increase the satiety factor in meals, thereby reducing changes of craving and PMS mood swings that are common during menstrual cycle. Consuming nuts, seeds, coconut oil, ghee will allow their bodies to easily boost calories and feel energetic.

Magnesium: Helps relax muscles and muscle contraction. It can calm down the nervous system that eventually reduces anxiety. With less stress, the menstrual cycle becomes positive and healthy for teens. Consuming nuts, seeds, leafy greens, cacao can be of great help.

At the end here are some remedies for a pain-free menstrual cycle:

Cacao tea: Cacao contains a rich amount of magnesium and possibly the best food to consume during menstrual cramps as it helps muscles relax.

Jaggery + sesame: Dealing with lethargy can be quite annoying during the menstrual cycle but to soothe the pain jaggery and sesame can be consumed together either in raw form or with a cup of milk. But remember to take sesame seeds in moderation as they tend to generate a lot of heat in the body.

Ginger, turmeric and tulsi tea: sipping off a cup of warm ginger/tulsi and turmeric tea can ease the discomfort and pain in the menstrual cycle. Ginger helps to lower the level of prostaglandins that are majorly responsible for triggering muscle cramps during the menstrual cycle.

So, now you know how nutrition complements the overall growth of your teens - hope they grow well and stay healthy!



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