By Dr. Janetta L. Arellano, pediatric resident at CHOC
As a parent, you want to make sure your child is getting everything they need to stay healthy. The problem is, you’re inundated by conflicted information—especially when it comes to vitamins and supplements. Here’s a guide to teens and vitamins that are most important for their health.
Vitamins in small quantities are essential for normal metabolism. Our bodies don’t make them, so we must get them from a well-balanced diet. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children who receive a well-balanced diet do not need extra vitamin intake over and above the recommended dietary allowances (RDA). Children with underlying medical conditions, poor appetite or highly-restricted diets (i.e. picky eaters and vegan or vegetarian eaters who may not consume a balanced diet) may benefit from a vitamin supplementation plan overseen by their pediatrician. More than one-third of children in the U.S. take dietary supplements routinely.
If you’re concerned that your teen may not be getting the vitamins they need, speak to their pediatrician about dietary changes or a vitamin supplementation plan. Although most over-the-counter vitamin supplements are typically safe, they can cause toxicity if taken above the RDA. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, rashes and headaches.
A guide to vitamins for teens
Helps with: night and color vision, in addition to normal growth, healthy skin and tissue repair.
Found in: dairy products and orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.
Helps with: new cell production and metabolism
Found in: meat, poultry, fish, legumes, milk, eggs, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals. B12 is only obtained by eating animal products including fish, meat, eggs and dairy. B12 supplements may be recommended for those following a vegan diet.
Helps with: building strong bones, keeps nerves and muscles working, and helps keep the heart healthy.
Found in: milk, yogurt, dairy, tofu, leafy greens, beans and legumes.
Helps with: your body’s ability to fight off illnesses and infections. It also helps with cell growth and helps heal wounds and cuts.
Found in: dark meat; nuts such as cashews, almonds and peanuts; legumes such as beans, split peas and lentils.
Helps with: synthesizing collagen, which is important in teeth and bone formation and wound healing. It also boosts the immune system.
Found in: citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries, cabbage and spinach.
Helps with: bone formation and maintaining adequate calcium levels.
Found in: fortified dairy products, fish oils and egg yolks. Direct sunlight is another source of Vitamin D.
Helps with: red blood cell production and increase in muscle mass. Teens undergo rapid growth and iron needs are greater, particularly young women who are menstruating and are at risk for developing iron deficiency.
Found in: meats (beef, turkey, pork and liver), spinach and beans.
Helps with: metabolism and new cell production. It is especially important during growth spurts.
Found in: Legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens and citrus fruits.
Learn more about nutrition for teens