Scrap That! Vitamin Supplements Are For Babies Or Should It Matter To Me?

As you leave your childhood years behind you and enter adolescence, your body changes and requires more energy and a load of key minerals and vitamins to keep up with the remarkable growth. And, although you do require smaller amounts of minerals and vitamins compared to an adult, you still need to make sure you receive enough of the vital nutrients necessary to support your physical (and even mental) health and development. It is also critical that you maintain balance, considering all these hormonal fluctuations you are beginning to experience the more you enter adolescence, which affect your mood, the appearance of our skin, and many others.

The key here is “balance” and includes a healthy diet. Unfortunately, an astounding 98% of teenage girls get less vitamin D (the so-called sun vitamin) and vitamin E than needed, according to research. Their magnesium, calcium, and vitamin A and C are also low. Of course, this is not an issue found among teenage girls only rather than adolescents as a whole. This makes sense, considering that most teens tend to overeat junk food, skip meals, and deprive themselves of the necessary vitamins to support an athletic or overly active lifestyle. Some adolescences also experiment with other diets, such as vegetarian, without knowing all the facts (or how to follow such a diet properly) first.

So, what do you do, in this case, to ensure your body gets all the vital vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to sustain its functions and promote your overall health and wellbeing? Do you turn to a fast solution like vitamin supplements, or should these be left as a last resort option? By the end of this article, you will have a pretty clear picture of what exactly needs to be done, when, and why. That way, you will be able to make informed decisions about your own health.

Yes, to Vitamin Supplementation – Under Certain Conditions

To cut a long story short, you don’t need vitamin supplements if your diet is balanced and allows you to gain what your body needs from your food. However, you will probably need supplemental nutrients if you are at risk of a vitamin deficiency. You may fall under this category if you:

  • Follow a vegan or vegetarian diet (you will have to provide your body with certain nutrients, like vitamins B12 and D, as well as zinc, iron, and calcium, from fortified foods or supplements).
  • Have had a surgery that somehow affects your stomach or intestines.
  • Are a picky eater and will only eat specific foods (you most likely receive limited amounts of zinc and iron through your diet).
  • Have a medical condition that either boosts your body’s need for nutrients or affects the absorption of nutrients, such as cystic fibrosis or celiac disease (you will probably need to receive fat-soluble vitamins supplementation, such as vitamins A, E, D, and K)

 

 

Important note: About one in every three teens is reported receiving dietary supplements, without an actual need for vitamin supplementation. Researchers say that this is a risky practice to follow, given that many of these supplements have been, in some cases, related to heart health issues. So, it is always advised to seek the guidance of your pediatrician or family doctor, who will oversee your vitamin supplementation plan if you need one. And, let’s not forget that if you take vitamin supplements above the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), you may experience toxicity symptoms, which include headaches, rashes, and nausea. So, moderation is key.

The following table is taken from an Oregon State University article and depicts how much of some essential vitamins and nutrients teenage girls and boys (ages 14-18) need to receive, according to the US Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). It is provided for your reference, so that you get an idea of what amounts we are talking about here.

 

 

Micronutrient  Males Females
Folate 400 μga 400 μga
Vitamin A 900 μg (3,000 IU)c 700 μg (2,333 IU)c
Vitamin B6 1.3 mg 1.2 mg
Vitamin C 75 mg 65 mg
Vitamin D 15 μg (600 IU) 15 μg (600 IU)
Calcium 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
Iron 11 mg 15 mg
Zinc 11 mg 9 mg

Vitamins & Teenagers – What and Where?

In small quantities, vitamins are crucial for normal metabolism. Nevertheless, our body cannot make all of them, which is why we need to get the ones it cannot make itself from a well-balanced diet. The reason behind this is to avoid vitamin deficiencies, which can lead to serious problems, such as anemia. Also, diseases related to malnutrition, developmental delays, and abnormal growth are all serious consequences tied to nutrient deficiencies.

Here is a small guide of the must-have vitamins if you are a teenager.

  • Vitamin A – It helps with tissue repair, healthy skin, normal growth, and vision. You can get it from orange veggies (i.e., pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots) and dairy products.
  • Vitamins of the B complex – They promote healthy metabolism, mental health, and encourage the production of new cells. They can be found in animal products, including eggs, meat, fish, and dairy, as well as enriched bread, whole grains, legumes, and poultry, among others.
  • Vitamin C – A vital vitamin for the synthesis of collagen, which is critical for the formation of bones, healing wounds, and tooth health. It is also found to strengthen the immune system. Get vitamin C from spinach, cabbage, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and, of course, citrus fruits

  • Vitamin D – An absolutely necessary nutrient the body requires to maintain adequate levels of calcium. It is also key in bone formation and can be obtained from egg yolks, fish oils, and fortified dairy products. Sadly, a British study has shown that more than 70% of teenagers might be vitamin D deficient. Bear in mind that direct sunlight is an excellent way to help the body make vitamin D from cholesterol in the skill cells.
  • Calcium – A necessary nutrient to build strong bones, maintain a healthy heart function, and keep the muscles and nerves working optimally. It can be obtained from legumes, beans, leafy greens, tofu, dairy, yogurt, and milk.
  • Zinc – A must-have nutrient to help the body fight off infections and illnesses. Zinc also helps heal cuts and wounds, along with cell growth. Enrich your diet with foods like lentils, split beans, peanuts, almonds, cashews, and dark meat to get the zinc you need.
  • Iron – It helps boost muscle mass and the production of red blood cells. As you undergo tremendous growth during your teen years, it is paramount to receive iron. This is particularly true for young women who have already had their periods. Beans, spinach, and meats are great sources of iron.
  • Folic acid – Besides stimulating the production of new cells, folic acid also helps with the metabolism. Eat plenty of citrus fruits, leafy greens, eggs, asparagus, and legumes to get sufficient amounts of this nutrient.

 

Getting Enough Nutrients – The Bottom Line

If your diet contains a variety of nutritious foods, then you probably don’t need vitamin supplements unless your pediatrician instructs otherwise. Ensure your diet includes vegetables, fruits, limited amounts of highly processed foods, and a wide range of whole, nutrient-dense foods, and chances are you will need nothing more than that to be healthy. In any other case, a licensed dietician and/or your pediatrician are the ones responsible for providing further nutritional guidance and suggest the proper vitamin supplementation plan for you. It is amazing how easy and simply being healthy and happy really is if you know how to take good care of your body!