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Nutritional Needs in Puberty

Infant and Children, Teenages, Nutrition | November 6, 2019 | Author: Naturopath


Nutritional Needs in Puberty

Nutritional needs for the 7 to 12-year age group is sometimes over-looked and children in this age group maybe actually nutritional deficient. Behavioural attitudes such as moodiness, uncontrolled anger and low attention span may be indicators of this and can often be alleviated by addressing nutrition and adequate sleep.

The nutritional and sleep needs of all aged children is far greater than that of adults due to the massive amount of growth over the years to adulthood and is one of the most important factors affecting puberty. The onset of puberty itself triggers a growth spurt which increases the need for macro as well as micronutrients.


Consuming to many calories in the form of obesity or excess weight can trigger the on-set of puberty. The beginning of puberty in girls is earlier than in previous decades and this is thought due to increased body fat availability of processed and high fat foods.

Under-nutrition can significantly affect puberty development.

Puberty development

The journey from prepubescents to full sexual maturity involves interaction and co-operation of physical, biological and psychological changes which rely on a balance healthy diet.

Puberty developmentFor girls puberty may begin between the age of 8 and 13 years and boys from the age of 10 to 15 years. If puberty begins before or after these times it is known as precocious puberty.

Carbohydrates for energy, protein for growth, fats for brain and cell health, minerals as building blocks, phytonutrients and vitamins support the successful growth and development of children. 

Specific Nutrients

Specific nutritional elements important to fulfil the needs during this critical period of growth include:


Protein needed for growth and repair. Protein rich foods include:

  • Meat, chicken, fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Soy products - tofu


Carbohydrate to fuel the body, especially the brain and muscles. Carbohydrates are found in:

  • Grain foods - bread, breakfast cereal, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, oats, barley and couscous
  • Dairy foods – yoghurt and milk
  • Fruit
  • Starchy vegetables – potato, corn, dried beans and lentils


Dietary fibre is also obtained from carbohydrate foods important for healthy digestion and satiety. Choose a combination of carbohydrate foods especially those with a low-glycaemic index for sustained energy and weight control.


Fat is an important constituent to the diet to help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; for energy; healthy cholesterol, hormone production, insulation and organ protection. But too much can fat lead to obesity and high cholesterol. Include healthy fat choices from monosaturated fats – olives, olive oil, peanuts and peanut butter, cashew, walnuts and canola oil. Saturated fat is found in found in meat and dairy products like beef, pork, lamb, cheese and egg yolks but eaten in moderation are important for their other nutrient- giving qualities.

For a healthy balanced diet choose from a variety of wholegrain, whole foods and healthy fat.



Calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones and teeth. Aim for at least 2 and half servings per day. Calcium sources include:

  • One cup (250ml) of milk (1 serve)
  • Two slices (40g) of cheese (1 serve)
  • One tub (200g) of yoghurt (1 serve)
  • Soy, almond, or other drinks - calcium-fortified
  • Firm tofu
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Unhulled Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, bok-choy and kale.
  • Fish such as sardines or tinned salmon with edible bones

Think fruit milk/milk alternative shakes for afternoon tea, cheese and crackers, tofu salads, salmon on toast or in fish cakes for some examples.

The best source of calcium is from dairy products. If dietary requirements can’t be reached supplement may be necessary. Osteoporosis is a disease resulting in fragile bones which can develop when calcium needs are not met.

Vitamin D

Vitamin is needed for calcium absorption along with a number of other uses. Muscle movement, immunity and proper functioning of the immune system make Vitamin D and important micronutrient, which can often be in deficit.  Most vitamin D is obtained from sunlight (usually avoided in Australia), fatty fish - salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs. and fortified foods. Supplementation is often needed over the winter months. Fortified cod-liver oil is also a good source.


Iron is one of the most important nutrients needed during puberty. The need for iron is increased during adolescence due to intensive growth and muscular development and the required increase in blood volume. The risk of becoming anaemic is great at this time and with important physiological repercussions.

Behaviour and cognitive function can be affected by an iron deficiency. Iron is required for energy production and immune system function.

Low energy and frequent infections may indicate a deficiency of iron in the body. 

Dietary iron can be obtained from animal sources such as red meat – beef, lamb; chicken and fish; and from vegetarian sources – legumes and lentils; cereals and wholegrains.

Iron uptake is helped by combining with vitamin C rich foods (fruit and vegetables) and combining animal and vegetarian iron sources.

Some foods reduce absorption. Tannins from tea, soy products, some fibres and phytates from wholegrains; calcium and phosphorus.

Some manufactured foods are iron-fortified. Supplements are available if diet is lacking or anaemia is present.

Iron requirements per day:

  • Girls and boys aged 9–13 years  - 8 mg
  • Boys aged 14–18 years  - 11 mg
  • Girls aged 14–18 years  - 15 mg


Zinc supports growth and sexual maturity, immune function and neurological function. Zinc deficiency can lead to physical growth delay, impaired immunity and possibly a delayed mental development. Choose shellfish, beef and other red meat, and eggs.

Note: Children who were ‘picky eaters’ in childhood can often develop poor eating habits and eating disorders at adolescence, and can often be deficient in iron and zinc.


Folate is another nutrient needed for growth and development. Folate is important for DNA, red blood cell formation and growth and repair of tissues. Folate comes from the B group family and is easily consumed in the diet by eating green leafy vegetables, avocado, fruit, legumes and beef. Many processed foods are fortified with folate.

In summary

Adequate nutrition obtained from eating a healthy diet with lots of variety is important for optimal growth and development in adolescence. Supplementation is important if nutrients can not be obtained from the diet.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Nutrition and pubertal development

Iron nutrition in adolescence.

Picky eating in children: causes and consequences.

Moderate Amounts of Vitamin D3 in Supplements are Effective in Raising Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D from Low Baseline Levels in Adults: A Systematic Review

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