Adolescence is a time of important physiological changes, in which nutritional needs are increased. But it is also a stage in which food likes and dislikes are acquired that can be harmful. For this reason, helping the adolescent to adopt healthy eating habits and ensuring that they do not suffer from any nutritional disorder is vital to promote proper development and, ultimately, achieve a healthier adult life.
Adolescence is characterized by being a period of sexual, functional and psychological maturity. It begins at approximately 12 years of age for girls and 14 years for boys. As a result of the acceleration of growth, the nutritional needs of adolescents are also increased.
For this reason, the acquisition of new behaviors is typical of this stage, although “often opposed to those of adults as a form of expression of their identity by adolescents,” says Laura González, Nestlé’s Head of Health and Nutrition and collaborator of “El Sisturí”.
It is a highly influential period in which “you can acquire food likes and dislikes that will last into adulthood,” she adds.
At this age, energy intake becomes especially important (which must be higher than that of the adult and contain nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, especially calcium, iron and zinc).
Proteins: Their final function is to synthesize new tissues and structures of the body.
Vitamins: They are involved in very active metabolic processes during adolescence.
Minerals: Crucial in the proper functioning of enzyme systems; to highlight the increased needs of iron (especially in girls, due to losses in menstruation).
Iron: Foods rich in this nutrient are red meat, liver or sausages such as blood sausage or black sausage. They can be consumed once a week. Legumes are also foods rich in iron but with less bioavailability. If we consume them with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, their absorption is favored.
In adolescence, their needs increase and are higher than those of the adult due to the development of the skeleton. In adolescents, about 1,200 milligrams are necessary (while in adults it would be about 800 mg). Peak bone mass is acquired between the ages of 25 and 35, therefore, it is important to ensure the correct calcium intake in adolescence. The deficiency of this mineral can lead to the appearance of osteoporosis in advanced ages. “We must remember that milk and dairy products are the best sources of calcium in our diet,” says González.
Zinc: A basic mineral for growth. Contributes to sexual development and tissue maintenance. It can be found in foods of plant origin or in the seeds of vegetables.
Most frequent nutritional problems.