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It’s an unfortunate truth that most young adults have lousy eating habits. Their on-the-go lifestyles cause them to reach for sugary, over-processed foods more often than not. Instead of drinking milk or water, they rely on soft drinks. Instead of well-balanced meals, a trip through the fast food drive thru suffices.
The problem with all of these admittedly convenient choices is their near total lack of nutritional value. Young adult bodies are going through a time of enormous stress and change. To cope successfully with puberty and the other demands of a growing, maturing body, proper vitamin and mineral intake is essential.
While the body requires a complex nutritional mix for optimum health, there are a few nutrients that the young adult body needs more than others.
This essential bone builder is critical for teens whose bodies are still growing. Studies have suggested that most teens are only getting a small percentage of the recommended daily allowance of calcium. This means that teens are missing out on bone density that will benefit them throughout adulthood and may also help prevent osteoporosis. Milk and other dairy foods can provide the recommended 1,300 milligrams of calcium teens need on a daily basis.
This vitamin is a calcium companion, as it helps bones absorb as much calcium as possible. Accordingly, sufficient levels of vitamin D are necessary to support strong, healthy bone growth. It also improves muscle and nerve function as well as providing valuable support to the immune system. Vitamin D is found in fortified milk, eggs, fortified juices, some cheeses and yogurts and fish.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These polyunsaturated acids support developmental health and help prevent cardiovascular problems later in life. Moreover, some studies suggest that getting enough omega-3s promotes balance in brain chemistry. People who ingest adequate amounts of omega-3s are far less likely to suffer depression, which is frequently a problem for some teens. Foods like tuna, salmon, olive oil and various leafy greens provide essential, healthy omega-3s.
Young adults are growing fast, and iron is an important building block. Iron builds red blood cells and helps these cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Having sufficient iron means having the energy required to perform in school and during extracurricular activities. Good sources of iron include beans, eggs, beef, lentils and iron-fortified cereals. Iron is particularly key for teen girls who have begun menstruating, as taking in extra iron helps replace iron lost through their menstruation.
Vitamins A, C, and E
These vitamins are important for everyone for a myriad of reasons, but they can be especially helpful for young adults. That’s because these vitamins assist to build and maximize the functioning of new cells. Look for orange vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes and soybean oil, which are a few of the common food sources for these vitamins.
Talk with a doctor before starting vitamin supplements. Physicians often recommend trying to get recommended daily allowances through food sources and only using vitamin supplements if it is absolutely necessary. A doctor can also provide counseling about healthy food choices and recommend vitamin supplements should they be deemed necessary.
Making Healthy Choices
Parents can play a major role in helping their teens make smart nutritional choices. Stock the pantry and the refrigerator with healthy snacks like yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, skim milk and whole grain crackers. Keep items like chips, candy and sodas out of the house, and just buy them for a special occasion once in awhile. Make a healthy, well-balanced dinner a part of every evening in your house. Get kids involved with the planning and preparation of these meals, which might help whatever is on their plate look more appetizing to them.
Many teens have a tendency to skip meals or to diet. These can be risky nutritional habits that may have long term effects. Counsel young adults as to the importance of having three meals plus healthy snacks during the day. Doing so keeps their energy levels balanced, prevents the crash associated with consuming too much sugary food and ensures that they’re getting the essential vitamins and minerals they need to keep growing.
Which Vitamins are your favorite?
Author credit Rob Thompson.