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Nutrition Essentials for Adolescent Girls



This month, we are writing a blog series on women’s health through all stages of life in honor of Women’s Health Month. Today, we will be discussing girls health during adolescence, defined as the period following the onset of puberty during which a young person develops from a child into an adult. During this period, there are important physical, emotional, and cognitive changes. In adolescent girls, the start of menstruation can occur anywhere between the ages of 8 and 17 years of age. Young girls will need to attain a recommended amount of nutrients to support their growth spurt with an addition of iron to support them when they start their menstruation.


Calcium

Our bodies need calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Not only do the bones need calcium but so does the heart, muscles, and nerves to properly function. If children don’t consume enough calcium, they risk not reaching their full potential of adult height. It is recommended that girls consume 1,300 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. Teen girls can receive this daily amount from dairy products, veggies, soy foods, calcium-fortified foods, beans, and canned fish. Some people are lactose intolerant but fortunately, there is lactose-free milk and other dairy products. Sometimes it can be challenging to get enough calcium in a vegetarian diet but calcium can be found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and chickpeas.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial in our body because the body can only absorb calcium when vitamin D is present. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) in adolescent girls. Vitamin D is usually found in foods like cheese, milk, salmon, mushrooms, and egg yolks. It is very important to eat a diet rich in vitamin D and spend time outside in the sun. If teenagers are not receiving enough vitamin D their doctor can recommend supplements. Parents should be aware of how much vitamin D they are taking because more than 4,000 units a day can lead to too much calcium being absorbed into the body.


Iron 

Iron is vital for making hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells. Adolescent girls need a recommended amount of 8 mg and an increase to 15 mg after menstruation. Girls are at a higher risk of iron deficiency because they lose iron during their menstruation. It is most likely that there would be no signs or symptoms of iron deficiency so it is very important to have a pediatrician assess your child. Typical foods that contain iron are beef, turkey, chicken, halibut, tuna, beans, lentils, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Adolescents must consume a well-balanced diet to achieve a healthy adulthood. Parents should be aware of what their kids consume and try to achieve the recommended amount. There are a lot of fun ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet.


Reviewed by Shannon Hodson, Kelly's Choice LLC


References


American Red Cross. (2021, November 11). The Importance of Iron in your Body.


Gavin, M.L. (2021, January). Calcium. Nemours TeensHealth.


Himelstein, R. (2022, January 31). Vitamin D: An Important Role in Teen Health . Nemours Children’s Health. https://blog.nemours.org/2022/01/vitamin-d-an-important-role-in-teen-health/



Ryan, M. (2023, October 20). Give your Teen’s Iron a Boost. Eat right.org Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/health/essential-nutrients/minerals/give-your-teens-iron-a-boost

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