Training Our Youth: Building a Future Foundation

Since birth, we have provided our children with proper nutrition, love, and support. We were able to reduce their intake of refined sugar and processed foods. We have managed to sneak in green vegetables in almost everything. What happens when they become teenagers who prefer to hang out at McDonald’s with their classmates snacking on fries? I know some of you parents are cringing at that idea, I know I am. It was an easier time when they were little and we could control what they ate, but as teens they prefer to do opposite of everything we say. So, where do we go from here? We cannot be everywhere our children are and stop them from eating things we don’t want them to have. Should we be giving them vitamins or other supplements to make up the lack of wholesome foods they consume? How do parents provide the proper building blocks to support the future health of their children?

THE ROLE OF PARENTS
Optimal nutrition can be challenging when raising a teenager, however parents play a huge role in their teenager’s wellness inside of the home. Parents can reduce or eliminate the amount of “junk food” that is in the house by simply not buying it. Avoid purchasing white bread, white pasta, white rice, chips, pop, juices and sugar filled snacks. This is one step in helping teenagers make smart food choices. Instead of buying “junk food”, fill your house with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and water. Parents also need to remember what it was like to be a teenager. Teens want to hang out with their friends and do what their friends do. For teenagers, going to fast food restaurants with their friends is usually for the social aspect. Instead of worrying about what they are going to eat when they go out, why not look at the menu with your teen and find healthier options when eating out.


NUTRITION AND THE SEXES
Male and female adolescence have different nutritional requirements once puberty begins. However, both male and female teenagers should be supporting their thyroid function with iodine and B vitamins. Iodine can be found in sea vegetables such as kelp and seaweed. An easy way to get kelp into your teenager’s diet is by using Kelp Salt, it can be found at most grocery stores that have a health food section.vitamin B food sources can be difficult to incorporate in the diet since B vitamins are easily damaged with light, oxidation and heat. A good quality B complex vitamin is a great solution. .


MALES
Once males begin to hit puberty, it is crucial to support their reproductive system to prevent issues with their sexual health in the future.
Zinc is needed for both boys and girls during puberty; however, males require more zinc than females. Zinc plays a large role in the health of sperm and testosterone support. Along with zinc, Vitamin C and B12 are needed for sperm health. A great source of zinc is pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that works along side with other antioxidants in the body. This wonderful antioxidant helps prevent free radical damage in the body.
What are free radicals and why are they bad?
Free radicals can cause DNA and cell damage. They can be formed by being exposed to pollution, chemicals, and some metabolic processes.

Males needs an adequate amount of Vitamin E to protect the testes from free radical damage since they are prone to oxidation. Some great Vitamin E food sources are almonds, NON-GMO sunflower oil, and avocados.
FEMALES
Since females are blessed with receiving a period every month, it could lead to iron deficiency due to blood loss.
Iron supplements should not be taken unless advised by a healthcare practitioner. High iron levels can lead to toxicity. However, eating iron-rich foods are a safer route and a great way to increase iron levels. Iron rich foods, such as organ meats, like liver, are one of the high whole food sources of iron. A few other great plant-based iron sources are spinach, blackstrap molasses, and pumpkin.

SUPPLEMENTS
Food should be the first source of nutrition before introducing supplements. If nutritional deficiencies are an issue, a good quality multivitamin for teens is a great start. It may be difficult for some parents to get their teenagers to eat fish, therefore, Omega 3 and 6 supplements can be given.


OMEGA 3 AND OMEGA 6
Good quality fats are essential for everyone’s daily diet. Since teens will be enduring puberty, healthy fats are needed for optimal hormone and brain health. Nuts and seeds, nut butters, fresh water/wild caught fish, and undamaged/cold pressed oils are great sources of Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s.



ACNE
Teen acne is something many teenagers struggle with. It can be triggered by a number of factors.

Some acne may be due to puberty and hormonal changes. Supporting teenagers through a good diet rich in zinc and good quality fats may help reduce acne. Poor quality, damaged fats, such as trans fats can lead to excess acne. Reducing the amount of damaged fats will be beneficial for not only reducing acne, but overall health. Specifically for females, a huge trigger for teen acne is the birth control pill. Birth control can have a detrimental effect on female health. Considering alternative natural contraceptives can be a better route for females.

References:
1. Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition the complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley, Calif.: Celestial Arts.
2. Holford, P. (2012). The optimum nutrition bible. London: Piatkus.