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Majority Missing Key Minerals & Vitamins

Teenagers seem to like certain things falling down: hair into their eyes, baggy pants pooling around their ankles.While such stylistic rebellions may constitute casus belliin certain households, falling down on key nutrients is a serious issue which parents and adolescents need to address together.

The five most glaring nutrient deficiencies among adolescents ages 14-18 are potassium, fiber, vitamin E, calcium and magnesium.These are similar to those nutrients absent in the adult population, with a few key differences that have particular health consequences for teens.We’ll address each of these in turn, and suggest top sources to help adolescents meet their dietary needs.

POTASSIUM: Virtually all adolescents–97%–are failing to reach the recommended intake of 4700mg of potassium a day, according to USDA data.No wonder blood pressure levels are rising among young Americans, as we previously reported in theDNN.While other factors play a role–excessive sodium intake, rising obesity rates–the near total absence of adequate potassium levels is pivotal, since the mineral helps maintain normal blood pressure and blunt the effects of excess sodium.

Healthy potassium sources include bananas, raisins, dates, potatoes, honeydew and white beans.

FIBER: In this case fiber’s “F” stands for a failing grade.Again, nearly all adolescents–over 97%–don’t get enough of this important macronutrient.Think that adults with elevated cholesterol are the only ones who need to focus on fiber? Twenty-seven million American children also have high cholesterol, and increasing their fiber intake could help protect them from cardiovascular disease. Fiber could also help guard children–particularly those exposed to second hand smoke–from developing respiratory problems later in life.Could fiber fight tummy pains? Children with higher fruit intake also experience fewer episodes of recurrent abdominal pain.

Top fiber sources include beans, oats, raspberries, blackberries and oranges.

VITAMIN E: File a missing nutrient report! 97% of teens aren’t getting their daily 12mg of this powerful antioxidant vitamin.You nag your kids to wash their hands, bundle up during cold weather–all in a never-ending quest to keep loved ones cold-free.

Yet vitamin E can help form the first line of defense against illness by boosting the production of bacteria-busting white blood cells while shielding immune cells from free radical damage.Nuts and seeds–almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds–are among healthy sources of this uber-antioxidant; also spinach, and some cereals.

CALCIUM: Only one in ten teen girls are getting adequate calcium according to recent clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, while less than a third of their male peers are meeting those needs, according to USDA.These stats may not seem as striking as the ones above, but when you consider the increased importance of calcium during a time when growing bodies are supposed to be increasing bone mass, inadequate intake of calcium constitutes a major mineral meltdown.

Don’t think that osteoporosis is confined to the elderly: One study found that 67% of kids who experienced frequent fractures already had the disease.If lactose intolerance is a problem, consider other healthy sources of calcium, such as soymilk, certain cereals, canned salmon, kale, okra and black-eyed peas.

MAGNESIUM: 91% of girls fail to get their 300mg while 78% of males fail to get their 340mg of magnesium, a mineral whose benefits include blood pressure regulation, lower gallstone risk, and reduced colon cancer risk.Some of the healthiest magnesium sources include oat bran, halibut, spinach, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.

Published July 1, 2006

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