Adolescence and Good Nutrition
The adolescent stage, the phase of life spanning between the ages 12 to 18, is a crucial stage because it brings about various physical and mental stages. It is during this stage that the child develops his or her ability to understand abstract ideas such as mathematical calculations and moral philosophies. It is also during this stage that the children are able to form and maintain new relationships and understand what intimacy is all about. Adolescents are more mature as to their true selves and purpose than younger children.
It is also during the adolescent stage that the body succumbs to various changes. In girls, there is the development of breasts, pubic hair, armpit hair, and leg hair. Menarche, which is the beginning of menstrual periods, also happens in this age. Along with these changes, girls also experience a rapid growth in height which peaks around age 12.
In boys, there are also a lot of changes. There is the growth of testicles, scrotum and genitals, Pubic hair, armpit, chest hair and facial hair also starts to grow at a rapid rate. The development of boys is usually later than girls, peaking at around 13 to 17 years old. Their voices also change and begin to become deeper.
This is why good nutrition is essential among adolescents. The diet must supplement healthy growth and development and must meet the needs of this stage. Diet should consist of a proper balance of nutrients such as proteins, energy, vitamins and minerals. Appetite may also increase during this stage, so that careful guidance of eating habits should be done. Adolescents must have a balanced diet with portions of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and poultry, milk and dairy products. There should also be enough intake of water and other fluids.
Salt Intake in Adolescents
Adolescent nowadays eat a lot of junk foods such as chips, white breads, candies and soda. In a recent study, it was shown that most adolescents take in as much salt as adults and even take in twice the recommended daily allowance of salt. This is important, since a high salt intake can lead to obesity and inflammation regardless of calories consumed. In this study by researchers from Medical College of Georgia and Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University, 97% of 766 healthy teens reported that they exceeded the American Heart Association’s recommendation of consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. The researchers are alarmed because these teenagers who took a lot of salt also had high levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha, a substance secreted by immune cells of the body that is a harbinger of chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders such as arthritis and lupus. The subjects with high salt intake also had high levels of leptin which is a hormone secreted by the fat cells of the body which regulars appetite and fat burning. Unusually high levels of leptin can bring about increased appetite and inhibit the burning of fat in the body.
The authors aim that through publication of their research results, they will be able to tell adolescents to decrease their salt intake, as this can bring about inflammation and excess fat in the body, which can further lead to dangerous medical illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. A high salt intake can also bring about excess weight through water retention in the body.
So how do you reduce your salt intake? You should buy fresh, frozen or canned vegetables with no salt added” labels. You should also avoid canned or processed meat and instead eat fresh meats, poultry or fish. Instead of adding salt to foods, you can use herbs, spices and salt-free seasonings to add flavour to your food. You can also cook rice, pasta and cereals without food. Choose foods which are low in salt and avoid fast food such as pizza, gravy, fried chicken and dips. To know more on how to eat healthy foods, feel free to read our other articles on this site.