There are numerous vitamins and minerals that are essential for body development and preventing diseased called micronutrients. These are not produced naturally by the human body and need to be obtained through diet. Nutritional deficiency occurs when the body does not absorb or acquire the amount of nutrients it requires due to either a bad diet or an inability to absorb these nutrients, causing many problems. The amount of each nutrient needed depends on age and can be gathered from a relatively normal diet through sources such as cereals, bread and milk. The inability to absorb nutrients is known as malabsorption syndrome, and it can be developed as a result of birth defects, infections or from certain diseases.
What Are the Essential Nutrients/Vitamins? What Is Nutritional Deficiency?
Vitamins are essential in regulating metabolism and maintaining growth and functioning. Muscles, tissues, and bones are built up by vitamins. Lack of proper nutrition can affect health and growth of teenagers as well as brain power and athletic abilities. Vitamins are organic compounds that need to be ingested in small amounts to maintain normal functions. These are vitamins A, C, E, D, B, and K, which come in two types: water-soluble and lipid soluble. Vitamin C and B-complex are water-soluble, meaning they are dissolved in the watery parts of fruits, vegetables and grains. The human body consists of 70% water, which makes it easier for water-soluble vitamins to be absorbed as they enter the bloodstream during digestion. Lipid-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin K, are found in foods such as oils, dairy and butter, and travel through the stomach and intestine, where an acidic substance called bile breaks up the fat and allows the vitamin to enter into the intestine wall. Proteins help transport fat-soluble substances through the body, while water-soluble substances are passed out through the kidneys easily and need to be replenished on a daily basis. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver and fat cells, where these stay until they are needed to be used. Many B-complex vitamins help enzymes release energy from food by forming co-enzymes, while the other B vitamins help to use that energy. Vitamin C helps to fight infection and to make collagen, the most important protein in the body. Vitamin A forms white blood cells, which helps the immune system, as well as eyesight. Phosphorus and calcium are gathered by vitamin D, which then uses it to form bones. Vitamin E gets rid of damaging elements in the body by working as an antioxidant. The ability to clot blood is from vitamin K. Without enough of each of these vitamins, humans can face many problems, such as fatigue, nerve damage, heard disease, rickets, and scurvy. Overloading these vitamin levels with supplements is also not good as that will cause toxicity within the body so a balance must be achieved.
What Essential Nutrients Are in Fruits and Vegetables? How Can Nutritional Deficiency Be Avoided by Teenagers?
Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, phosphorus, and folic acid. Folic acid is crucial as it can reduce homocysteine, a substance responsible for development of coronary heart disease. Studies have also shown that individuals who consume a plethora of fruits and vegetables also have lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, some cancers, and stroke (Hasler, 2002). It is important to consume all types of fruits, such as citrus, tropical and exotic, tomatoes and avocados, melons, berries, stone fruit, and apples and pears, since fruits are low in fat, sodium, as well as calories. All fruits have no cholesterol, which is also important for being healthy. Similarly, all types of vegetables and legumes should also be included in a healthy diet, such as leafy greens, roots, alliums, edible plant stems, cruciferous, marrows, beans and peas, legume flours, and soy products. Each group of fruits and vegetables have different nutrients in them and all are important for a healthy balanced diet. The best way to make sure that a variety is achieved is by consuming the fruits and vegetables which are in season at the time, ensuring all types of fruits and vegetables are consumed over the course of the year. Alternatively, by creating a rainbow of colors using fruits and vegetables during meals, all nutrients can be obtained on a daily basis. Instead of consuming junk food and empty calories, this is a much better alternative as it will keep you satisfied longer as well as being incredibly healthy and good for your body.
The colors of fruits and vegetables can reveal a lot about their nutritional value. Red foods such as apples, tomatoes, and watermelon are great at fighting heart disease and prostate cancer due to the presence of lycopene. Green vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, and kale contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help prevent eye diseases which are related to age. White foods such as cauliflower provide protection against certain cancers since they carry sulforaphane. All these are minerals which are vital in disease prevention and can be obtained through regular balanced consumption of fruits and vegetables.
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While there are nutrients and vitamins in other foods apart from fruits and vegetables, a lack of these will not produce a healthy balanced diet. Vitamin A can be obtained from foods such as carrots, apricots, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C can be obtained through foods such as papaya, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and other dark leafy green vegetables. Asparagus, spinach, almonds, and bell peppers are all excellent sources of vitamin E. Vitamin K can be procured from broccoli, asparagus, kale, mustard greens, parsley. Vitamin B and D are generally not obtained through fruits and vegetables. Most variations of vitamin B are only obtained protein high foods such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and milk, but Vitamin B-9 can be obtained from leafy green vegetables. Vitamin D is also not obtained through fruits and vegetables, but is obtained through foods such as certain seafood, milk and eggs. To have a truly balanced diet, there should also be plenty of lean meat, poultry, fish, wholegrain cereals, bread, rice on top of vegetables, legumes, fruits, milks, yoghurts, cheeses. Water is also very important and plenty of it should be consumed daily.
What Vitamins Do Teenagers Need Most and Are They Acquiring Them?
Teenagers have many nutritional needs. Minerals and vitamins can significantly improve hair, complexion, physical ability, and being healthy in general. Teenagers need to consume more food than other age groups and should be eating larger servings. Girls in particular need a diet very rich in iron to compensate for the amounts they lose during their menstrual cycle, through meals such as steak and vegetables. The average teenager requires 5-6 serves of grains per day. This keeps their diet healthy and balanced, as well as providing them with carbohydrates for energy throughout the day. Eating fresh fruits are helpful as they are abundant in vitamin C. Teenagers aged 16-18 need 300-450 grams of fruits per day and 300 grams of vegetables per day, but the diets of teenagers do not contain the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and this should be improved. Vegetarian diets are taken by a minority of teenagers. However, though teens on vegetarian diets can obtain many nutrients, they have reported to having stunted growth, stress fractures, and fragile bones due to not getting enough nutrients while on a vegetarian diet.
Those who have high levels of fruits, vegetables, and legumes present in their diets have lower risks of heart disease, major cancers, hypertensions, type 2 diabetes, stroke, macular degeneration of the eye, and cataracts. Along with fruits, sources filled with zinc are able to help acne prone skin. Good sources for zinc include chicken and vegetables. Girls who are obsessed about body image may tend to restrict their diets. This is discouraged as it can affect the natural menstrual cycle, as well as disadvantage fertility levels and bone health later on. Another interesting point is that crash dieting is effective, however it should not be done as it can damage health later on in life. Skipping breakfast increases chances of cravings as well as slowing down metabolism. Dairy foods contain 10 essential nutrients, including: calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, proteins, and carbohydrates. Calcium is the most important one for teenagers as it is directly related to strong bones. The stronger bones become during teenage years, the less chance there is in the future to develop osteoporosis, a disease which affects the density and quality of bones. The recommended amount of calcium for teenagers is 1300 mg per day, which is 3 servings of calcium. Calcium should also be obtained from natural sources like cow’s milk, not supplements. Research has also showed that incorporating dairy into diets can help with weight management and weight loss.
A survey conducted in a high school with cultural diversity showed that 22% of participants were not aware of nutritional deficiency. 23% of participants took iron supplements due to an iron deficiency. An alarming 86% of participants did not meet the daily dairy recommendation, of which 15% did not consume any dairy at all. 62% of participants did not meet the daily recommendation of 2 fruits and 5 vegetables, and out of the 62% that did not consume enough fruits and vegetables, 66% them consumed 3 or less vegetables each day (Scaria, 2019). As a result of the survey, we can see that a large majority of teenagers do not meet the daily recommendations for dairy, fruits or vegetables, which in turn deprives them of vitamins and causes nutritional deficiency.
Various extensive studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle can be created and maintained through diet and exercise. There are numerous vitamins that are needed for optimum functionality. Not eating nutritious food can cause nutritional deficiency as well as other problems such as obesity, osteoporosis, growth problems and eating disorders. Eating disorders can cause malnutrition, and can lead to other problems such as heart disease due to starvation, internal stomach bleeding, and depression (leading to suicide). It is important that healthy nutritional levels are achieved through foods instead of through supplements and vitamins. Teenagers often consume higher levels of unhealthy food (junk food, sodas, sweets) than recommended, especially when away from home. Junk food does not contain ample amounts of vitamins and eating these empty calories can over time lead to nutritional deficiency. Over 50% of teenagers do not consume the required amount of vegetables and fruits, while over 66% consume too much fat. Over 66% have also tried to lose weight but were unsuccessful. Many professionals have concluded that a strategy for choosing healthier options is to eliminate the unhealthy options. This has been proven as a successful method, however, it is important for teenagers to let themselves have a snack sometimes and eat some unhealthy food as completely avoiding certain foods can cause relapses. Nutritional deficiency in teenagers can be avoided through various factors, the most important one being the consumption of healthy and functional foods which contain the required nutrients and vitamins to be healthy and promote growth during the adolescent years.
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