Teenagers – Vitamin and Mineral Requirements

Adolescents need plenty of vitamins and minerals during their growth spurt. For girls, this generally occurs around 10 to 11 years of age, while for boys it occurs later, at around 12 to 13 years. Nutritional and energy needs at this time are greater than at any other time of life, except during pregnancy and breast feeding.

As an adolescent goes through physical and biochemical changes, there is an increased need for certain vitamins. The following vitamins play significant roles:

  • Folic acid and vitamin B12 are needed as tissue synthesis occurs rapidly.
  • As the calorie intake increases, the need for vitamin B1 (thaimin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin B3 (niacin) also increases.
  • Vitamin B6 and vitamin D are needed in higher amounts for tissue growth and skeletal growth.
  • The completed structure and function of newly formed cells relies on the presence of vitamins A, C, and E.
  • There is a continued need for calcium, magnesium and zinc so that the bones can increase their density.

Throughout adolescence, the occurrence of inadequate diets is higher than in any other stage of development. The following has been found in relation to teenager’s nutrient intake.

  • Calcium, zinc and iron are often lower than the required amounts.
  • Vitamin A and vitamin C have also been found to be low.
  • The phosphorus intake can be high because of the quantity of soft drinks consumed and this can have an adverse effect on the calcium balance in the body.
  • There can be an over consumption of high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods.
  • Generally, adolescents who skip meals, eat smaller amounts of food, and have fewer healthy snacks (such as, fruit or yogurt) have the least adequate diets.

Supplements for adolescents

Adolescence is a time of increased vitamin and mineral need and it is also a time when adolescents are prone to developing poor eating habits. It is recommended that in addition to tyring to eat a healthy diet that teenagers take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. The supplement should contain at least the following:

Contents Per Tablet

  • Vitamin A 500 – 1,200I Us
  • Vitamin B1(thaimin) 2 – 10 mg
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 2 -1 0 mg
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 2 – 15 mg
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 10 – 25 mcg
  • Vitamin C 25 – 150 mg
  • Vitamin E d-Alpha 10 – 50 IUs
  • Biotin 20- 50 mcg
  • Calcium Pantothenate (B5) 30 – 60 mg
  • Choline 5 – 15 mg
  • Bioflavonoids 5 – 25mg
  • Folic Acid 50 – 100 mcg
  • Nicotinic acid 5 – 10 mg
  • Nicotinamide 10 – 20 mg
  • Beta-carotene 2 – 5 mg
  • Iodine (from Kelp) 10 – 25 mcg
  • Calcium (element) 50 – 150 mg
  • Chromium 20 – 30 mcg
  • Iron (element) 2 – 3 mg
  • Magnesium (element) 20 – 60 mg
  • Selenium (element) 10 – 25 mcg
  • Zinc (element) 2 – 4 mg

What you can do to help

Adolescents are becoming more independent and making many food decisions on their own. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers.

Meal convenience is important to many adolescents and they may be eating too much of the wrong types of food (such as, soft drinks, fast-food and processed foods).

Further, a common concern of many adolescents is dieting. Girls may feel pressure from peers to be thin and to limit what they eat. Both boys and girls may diet to ‘make weight’ and ‘look good’ for a particular sporting or social event. So we need to try to encourage a healthy weight, making food choices that are healthy and being involved in some physical activity each day.

The following are some tips to help adolescents develop healthy eating habits:

  • Arrange for teenagers to find out about nutrition for themselves.
  • Encourage and support their interest in health, cooking, or nutrition.
  • Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  • Experiment with foods outside your own culture.
  • Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Sometimes, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
  • If there are foods that you do not want your teenager to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.
  • Avoid buying high calorie desserts or snacks, such as snack chips, regular soft drinks or regular ice cream.
  • Provide a good role model of healthy eating and living for your teenager to follow.
  • Discuss the following healthy eating recommendations with your adolescent to help ensure a healthy eating plan:
  • Eat three meals a day, with healthy snacks.
  • Eat plenty of fiber and limit the use of salt.
  • Drink a lot of fresh filtered water.
  • Try to avoid or at least limit caffeinated drinks and drinks with a high sugar content.
  • When cooking, try to steam, bake (without added fats or oils) or broil instead of frying.
  • Try to avoid high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods.
  • Eat? fresh fruit or vegetables for a snack.
  • Try to eat at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Eat more chicken and fish than red meats.

The teenage years are a time of rapid growth and development. It is also a time when eating patterns and habits are often not as good as they could be. This places teenagers at the risk of developing one of the many nutritionally related health problems. Providing vitamin and minerals supplements is one measure that can be taken to help ensure that adolescents have the nutrition their body needs.


Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Elliot, N. 2004, Green Peace. Practical Parenting.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

Michael Ortiz

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