Adolescents need proper nutrition for bone and muscle development, recovery from sports, cognition and strong immune systems. In the August issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists, contributing editor Linda Milo Ohr looked at new research behind seven ingredients that are essential for growing teens and tweens.
- Protein – Lean protein is necessary for muscle development as well as weight management and sports recovery for teens and tweens. A study found that afternoon snacking, particularly on high-protein soy foods, improved appetite, satiety and diet quality in adolescents, while beneficially influencing aspects of mood and cognition. (Leidy et al 2015).
- Whole Grains – Whole grains are an important source of many essential nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, protein and iron. A 2016 showed that every 10 g of fiber in adolescence and young adulthood was linked with a 14 percent and 13 percent lower risk of later breast cancer, respectively, and that young women eating the most fiber in adolescence and young adulthood (25 g per day) were 25 percent less likely to get breast cancer than those eating the least fiber (12 g per day) (Farvid et al).
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to benefit heart health and may also help cognition. A supplementation trial found a possible indication that krill oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acid content, can encourage a higher information processing speed and less impulsivity in adolescents with a higher omega-3 index (van der Wurff et al 2016).
- Probiotics – Probiotics have been shown to play a role in both immunity and digestive health for adolescents. Leyer et al. (2009) showed that supplementation for six months supported respiratory health with symptom duration shortened from 6.5 to 3.5 days.
- Prebiotics – Prebiotics benefit digestive health but also have been shown to aid in calcium absorption, which is important for teens and tweens who are still growing. A study suggested moderate daily intake of soluble corn fiber, a prebiotic, increased short-term calcium absorption in adolescents consuming less than the recommended amount of calcium (Whisner et al. 2014).
- Blueberries – Blueberries are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. A recent study found cognitive improvements in children aged 7-10 who consumed wild blueberries (Whyte et. al 2015).
- Dairy Foods – According to Ohr, adolescents tend to fall short of their daily quotas of calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin D. All of which can be found in dairy foods, as well as other essential nutrients including protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.