Changing what you eat can be a difficult adjustment, especially when highly processed foods are extremely accessible due to takeout, delivery, and fast food options. At the moment, it might be tempting to eat that giant bowl of ice cream for dessert or stop by Dutch Bros for a rebel before school, but consuming these high-sugar substances daily could negatively affect your health.
There is an epidemic in the United States; an epidemic of obesity. About 20.6% of 12-19 year olds are obese. Obesity is known to be a leading factor in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, asthma, joint problems, fatty liver disease, gallstones, heartburn, and many more complications.
To prevent these unfortunate side effects, teenagers can easily swap the highly processed foods for more fulfilling options. Most teenagers are capable of deciding what they want to eat, so educating yourself about what will benefit you in the long run is extremely important.
Furthermore, here are the top reasons teenagers should eat healthier foods and the great benefits behind them
1. Bone Growth
During adolescence, your bones are growing at an intense rate. Properly fueling your body with calcium and vitamin D rich foods will increase your bone density. Doing so will slow the amount of bone density you lose once you hit your late 20’s. Teens that aren’t reaching their calcium intake could be at risk for Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis weakens the bones, making them susceptible to breaks and fractures. This is common and mostly found in women compared to men, but affects everyone as we age.
Calcium is the most common mineral found in bone strengthening foods. Some examples of these calcium rich foods include dairy products, veggies (especially broccoli and dark leafy greens), soy foods, calcium-fortified foods, beans, canned fish, and almond milk.
Two other options to strengthen your bones are getting enough vitamin d and exercising. Vitamin D is also found in dairy products, fish, and egg yolks, but the sunlight is an easy way of attaining this vitamin. Exercise has also been shown to help maintain bone strength, even by simply walking or jogging.
2. Hormonal Changes
As a teenager, depending on your age, you are more than likely going through some sort of hormonal change. Eating healthy foods can help regulate some of the hormonal imbalances you may be going through in this crucial point in your life.
Some signs of hormonal imbalances are weight gain, weight loss, fatigue, weakened muscles, aches or stiffness in muscles or joints, and an increased or decreased heart rate. It’s important to recognize these signs and talk to your doctor to address any issues.
Some common reasons for hormonal imbalances that can be used as a reflection include:
- High stress
- Insufficient sleep
- Unhealthy diet
- Thyroid problems
In order to balance your hormones, there are simple actions you can take within your diet for your benefit. Eating enough protein at every meal is crucial for maintaining muscle, bone and skin health. It will also control the “hunger hormone,” Ghrelin, keeping you full for longer periods of time. Food high in sugar and refined carbs should also be minimally eaten due to insulin spikes. Doing so will decrease insulin levels. Lastly, eating healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, and eggs will release the hormones that make you feel full and satisfied.
3. Organ and Tissue Development
The greatest and most complex organ in your body is the brain. Your brain controls other organs along with thoughts, speech, and movement. Along with all of the other organs and tissues in your body, it’s highly beneficial to fuel yourself properly so that everything inside your body is working well.
There are tons of different things you can do to keep your brain healthy including getting enough sleep and exercise. But, your diet is also a major factor. Here are some foods that will feed your brain for a clear and active mind:
- Oily fish
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
You may or may not have noticed a pattern in some of the foods and nutrients that have been listed, and that’s because healthy fats are extremely important for proper growth.
Just like anything in life, balance is key. My recommendation for keeping a balanced diet is to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals along with a balance of macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat).