Dietary supplements don’t take the place of eating a healthy diet. But if your teen is eating plenty of junk food, then supplements will help make up for some of the nutritional deficiencies that occur when they’re not eating the right foods.
Our bodies need vitamins and minerals every day to function properly. The most important vitamins for teens are Vitamin A, B, C, D, E & K. As well as minerals including Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Magnesium.
In this article, we’ll explore which vitamins are beneficial for different teen needs.
We’ll also give you some guidelines on what to look for when shopping for high-quality products.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about choosing the best vitamins for your teenage son or daughter.
What Are The Essential Vitamins For Teens?
There are several essential vitamins & minerals that a teenager needs to grow and develop properly. We’ve listed what some of these essential nutrients can do for your teen.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes, eyes, and skin against damage.
It also helps build strong bones and teeth. It’s also an essential ingredient to use to treat bruises, cuts, and minor wounds.
Foods that contain Vitamin A include liver, eggs, butter, and carrots.
Vitamin A deficiencies are rare in young teens. Still, if your child is struggling with poor eyesight or skin conditions, it might be wise to add foods that contain Vitamin A or to give them a multivitamin supplement that provides vitamin A as well as other nutrients in the proper amounts.
How much Vitamin A does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 900 micrograms, or 3,000 IU per day
Teen Girls: 700 micrograms, or 2,333 IU per day
The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A for an average adult (14 years +) is 700 micrograms RAE (2,300 IUs of retinol, or 4,600 IUs beta carotene from supplements) for females and 900 mircograms RAE (3,000 IUs of retinol, or 6,000 IUs of beta carotene from supplements) for males. Children require even less vitamin A, between 300 and 600 RAE depending on age (1,000- 2,000 IUs retinol, 2,000-4,000 IUs beta carotene from supplements.) Dietary supplements usually supply vitamin A in a combination of the forms of beta-carotene and preformed vitamin A, or retinol. Multivitamin supplements typically contain 2,500 to 10,000 IUs of Vitamin A.”
VITAMIN B COMPLEX
Vitamin B Complex is a group of water-soluble vitamins that are naturally found together in various foods.
These vitamins help convert the food you eat into the energy your body needs for everything from thinking to breathing.
It’s an essential component of protein, and it helps the body absorb and use other nutrients.
This vitamin is especially important for teens who do heavy exercise to build muscle mass without getting exhausted from a lack of energy.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Also known as thiamin, Vitamin B1 helps your body convert carbohydrates into energy, so they don’t just get stored as fat. It’s vital for teens because almost all of their new growth is made up of protein and carbohydrates.
You can find vitamin B1 in fish, meat, yeast extracts (like Vegemite), wholegrain bread, and certain fortified breakfast cereals.
How much Vitamin B1/Thiamin does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 1.2 milligrams of thiamin per day
Teen Girls: 1 milligram of thiamin per day
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Also known as riboflavin, Vitamin B2 helps turn the nutrients from the food you eat into energy. This nutrient keeps your skin healthy and helps your eyes and ears function properly.
Teens only need about 1mg of vitamin B2 per day, but it’s considered safe at high doses because excess is disposed of through the urinary tract.
You can find vitamin B2 in milk, yogurt, meat, cheese, yeast extracts, eggs, and wholegrain bread.
How much Vitamin B2/Riboflavin does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 1.3 milligrams of riboflavin per day
Teen Girls: 1 milligram of riboflavin per day
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Also known as niacin, Vitamin B3 has several benefits. Vit B 3 enables your body to produce sex hormones that help you mature physically during puberty. It also assists in nerve function and ensures healthy skin.
This nutrient has been used for years to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, preventing fat from being stored in the liver or arteries.
You can find Vitamin B3 in foods such as meat, fish, chicken, nuts, and yeast extracts.
How much Vitamin B3/Niacin does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 16 micrograms of niacin per day
Teen Girls: 14 micrograms of niacin per day
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Also known as pantothenic acid, Vitamin B5 helps your body metabolize fat and amino acids and convert food into energy.
This nutrient can help with high blood pressure, acne, and depression.
How much Vitamin B5/Pantothenic Acid does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid per day
Teen Girls: 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid per day
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Also known as pyridoxine, Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps your body break down protein into amino acids so they can be used for energy.
It’s significant for teens because this growth phase is basically all made up of protein. You can find vitamin B6 in meat, fish, wholegrain foods, vegetables, and nuts.
How much Vitamin B6/Pyridoxine does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B-6 per day
Teen Girls: 1.2 milligrams of vitamin B-6 per day
Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)
Folate helps you absorb protein and form new blood cells. Therefore getting enough folate before and during pregnancy is very important to help prevent neural tube defects.
You get folate from green leafy vegetables, liver, legumes, and wholegrain bread and cereals.
How much Folate do teenagers need?
Teen Boys: 400 micrograms of folate per day
Teen Girls: 400 micrograms of folate per day
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Also known as cobalamin, Vitamin B12 comes from cobalt in foods such as eggs or fish.
It’s important to note that this vitamin can be dangerous if consumed by someone who is allergic to cobalt.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the heart, and it helps the body use energy from food. It also aids in the production of red blood cells, which help transport oxygen throughout the body.
How much Vitamin B12/Cobalamin does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day
Teen Girls: 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin C fights infections and can help to reduce the duration of colds.
A vitamin C deficiency can lead to joint and muscle pain called rheumatism. This is a serious condition that can weaken bones, muscles, and connective tissue. It usually occurs in older people, but it can cause problems even in teens who are not overweight or frail.
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, which comes from the word “ascorbate.”
It can be found in many different fruits and vegetables like citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, capsicums, and potatoes.
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following daily intake of Vitamin C:
Teen Boys: 75 milligrams of Vitamin C daily
Teen Girls: 65 milligrams of Vitamin C daily
Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is the natural form of vitamin D that your body makes from sunlight.
Vitamin D3 helps teens absorb calcium, which is essential for building strong bones and makes them less susceptible to injuries.
The best way to ensure your teen has the correct vitamin D3 levels is to get adequate amounts of sunlight on their skin.
Some foods also contain this vitamin. Vitamin D3 is commonly found in fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Vitamin D3 deficiency can lead to rickets, a disease that causes bones to become soft and weak. Severe cases of rickets in children can cause their growth plates to fuse together, preventing them from growing tall enough for their bodies to function correctly. This is why teens need to make sure they have the proper amounts of vitamin D every day.
What are the signs of low vitamin D?
- Fatigue or tiredness.
- Bone pain.
- Joint pain.
- Muscle pain.
- Sour mood.
- Low energy.
- More frequent illness.
How much Vitamin D does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 15 micrograms (600 IU) of Vitamin D daily
Teen Girls: 15 micrograms (600 IU) of Vitamin D daily
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells against damage due to free radicals. It also helps lower cholesterol levels, and it’s used to protect the eyes, brain, and liver from damage caused by oxidation.
Vitamin E is derived from plants or foods that come from plants, such as nuts, vegetable oils (sunflower & canola), and wheat germ.
It’s crucial for teens because their bodies need a steady supply of it to keep up with the demands of growing bodies and developing minds.
How much Vitamin E does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 15 milligrams of Vitamin E daily
Teen Girls: 15 milligrams of Vitamin E daily
The body makes some vitamin K, but there are also some risks with this. For example, not enough vitamin K can cause life-threatening bleeding disorders.
There are two types of vitamin K: Vitamin K1 comes from leafy green vegetables and foods such as broccoli, soybeans, spinach, and tomatoes. Vitamin K2 comes from dairy products and eggs. It’s often added to milk and other dairy products.
Vitamin K is vital for the production of blood and bone tissue. It helps the body make specific proteins that form these tissues, preventing bleeding disorders. This also prevents the formation of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks or strokes.
How much Vitamin E does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 75 milligrams of Vitamin K daily
Teen Girls: 75 milligrams of Vitamin K daily
What Are The Essential Minerals For Teens?
DHA (Omega 3)
Docosahexaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can help with heart health, depression, memory, and concentration.
Some research suggests that omega-3 supplements may help decrease ADHD symptoms. This includes improved memory, attention, learning, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
DHA occurs naturally in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
Teen Boys: 1.6 grams of Omega 3 daily
Teen Girls: 1.1 grams of Omega 3 daily
Zinc is a mineral that is involved in over 200 biological functions, including cell growth, immune function, and blood clotting.
You get Zinc from meat, chicken, seafood, milk, seeds, tofu, and wholegrain cereals.
How much Zinc does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 11 milligrams of zinc daily
Teen Girls: 9 milligrams of zinc daily
This essential mineral is vital for healthy energy levels and hormone balance and helps restore normal bone growth.
According to Webmd.com magnesium helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong, and the heart rhythm steady.
What are the symptoms of low magnesium in the body?
- muscle cramps.
- muscle spasticity.
- personality changes.
- abnormal heart rhythms.
How much Magnesium does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 410 milligrams of magnesium daily
Teen Girls: 360 milligrams of magnesium daily
Eat plenty of dairy products, leafy greens, and fish because calcium helps nerves function properly.
Teens need extra calcium, too, because they are constantly growing new cells.
Calcium maintains strong bones and is needed for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and body parts.
How much Calcium does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 1300 milligrams of calcium daily
Teen Girls: 1300 milligrams of calcium daily
Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, the stuff that carries oxygen around your body.
Iron is necessary for brain function and red blood cell production.
You get iron from meat, liver, chicken, seafood, dried beans, and egg yolks.
How much Iron does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 11 milligrams of iron daily
Teen Girls: 15 milligrams of iron daily
At high doses, iron is toxic. For adults and children ages 14 and up, the upper limit — the highest dose that can be taken safely — is 45 mg a day. Children under age 14 should not take more than 40 mg a day.”webmd.com
Selenium is a mineral that aids in thyroid hormone production and is needed for the proper functioning of all cells in your body, so teens need to get plenty of selenium too.
How much Selenium does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 55 mcg of selenium daily
Teen Girls: 55 mcg of selenium daily
Like any metal, selenium can be harmful in large amounts. Adults and teens who take more than 400 mcg a day or grade-schoolers who get more than 150 mcg could develop skin rashes, fragile fingernails, hair loss, nausea, and diarrhea.”consumer.healthday.com
Copper is a mineral that helps your body make red blood cells, skin, hair, nerves, and bones.
The recommended daily allowance for copper is about 900 micrograms (mcg) a day for adolescents.
According to Medical News Today both copper deficiency and copper toxicity are rare in the United States (U.S).
How much Copper does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 890 mcg of copper daily
Teen Girls: 890 mcg of copper daily
Manganese is essential for enzyme function in your body’s cells, so teens need plenty of manganese as well.
According to the National Institutes Of Health, manganese can be found in whole grains, clams, oysters, mussels, nuts, soybeans and other legumes, rice, leafy vegetables, coffee, tea, and many spices.
How much Manganese does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 2.2 milligrams of manganese daily
Teen Girls: 1.6 milligrams of manganese daily
Chromium is an important mineral that can help prevent insulin resistance, diabetes, and weight gain.
How much Chromium does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 35 mcg of chromium daily
Teen Girls: 24 mcg of chromium daily
You can get iodine from seafood, vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, and bread made with iodized salt.
Iodine is essential for normal growth and tissue development and helps control the ways your cells produce energy and use oxygen. Pregnant women need higher levels of iodine.
How much Iodine does a teenager need?
Teen Boys: 150 mcg of iodine daily
Teen Girls: 150 mcg of iodine daily
Safety Information: How To Choose The Best Vitamins For Your Teenager
1. Always start by asking your physician for recommendations on which multivitamins or supplements might be best for your child.
2. Consider your child’s particular health needs.
3. Check for possible allergies. It’s important to check the labels carefully to make sure you know what each ingredient is. The pills or capsules might be nutrient-rich but contain ingredients your child could be allergic to.
4. Choose a multivitamin unless your doctor has prescribed certain vitamin supplements to help your teenager ensure they are not deficient in any particular vitamins.
5. Follow all the instructions for how to take your vitamins properly. Don’t use more than the recommended daily amounts or take them at other times of day than what’s recommended.
6. Consider the amount of daily nutrition that your serving provides – you want to ensure your teenage child gets 100% nutrition. Stay away from supplements that deliver over 100 percent of their daily needs.
7. Adolescents should not be given vitamins that contain more than the permitted amount of vitamin A. Taking too much Vitamin A can cause dizziness, nausea, and even cause comas or death.
8. Look for a seal of approval, e.g., United States Pharmacopeia or USP. Look for a similar seal if you reside in another country.
9. Ensure that your teenager is eating a balanced diet to allow their body to absorb the necessary nutritional supplements.
What Is The Best Multivitamin For Teens?
There are many multivitamin supplements, but not all are created equal. There is a significant difference in quality between the supplements made by the different manufacturers.
When choosing a multivitamin for your teen, you need to see how many of the listed vitamins and minerals does it contain.
Then you need to look at the amount of the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin and mineral it contains. It should be as close as possible to the RDA and not too much over either, to avoid overdosage and possible side effects.
Top 3 Overall Multivitamin For Teens
Top 3 Multivitamin For Teen Girls
Top 3 Multivitamin For Teen Boys
Watch this CNN video where Holly Firfer answers: “Do kids need to take daily multivitamins? Some do, some don’t.” And which one supplement almost every teen does need.
Which Supplements Are Recommended For Vegetarian Teens
Vegetarian teens might need to supplement their diet with the following vitamins and minerals if they’re not getting enough from their food.
If your teen does not eat dairy, focus on plant-based calcium sources such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, and fortified nut or soy milk.
Teens need about 1,300 mg of calcium per day; therefore, a supplement may be necessary.
Mood swings, memory problems, and changes in behavior are associated with iron deficiencies. At even moderately low levels, children can feel tired or weak. The risk of iron deficiency is especially high for teenage girls when menstruation starts.
The primary source of this essential nutrient is red meat, so vegetarian kids are also at risk. Nevertheless, an iron-rich vegetarian diet is still possible. Apricots, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, lentils, white beans, tomato paste, and blackstrap molasses are good sources.
Teens need between 11–15 mg of iron a day.
Protein is easy to get if you eat meat. However, if you are a vegetarian, it can be challenging to get enough protein. Your kids can eat eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and high-protein grains like quinoa. Teens need 30–50 grams of protein daily.
It’s easiest for teens to get Vitamin D from the sun. Kids should spend at least 20 minutes a day outside without sunscreen.
Teens need 600IU per day, so it might be wise to supplement with 400 IUs a day in winter.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so it is hard to get on a vegan diet that excludes dairy and eggs. Nutritional yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), grown on molasses, is the most reliable plant source.
Teens need between 1 mcg–2.4 mcg of Vitamin B12 per day. A good multivitamin should include Vitamin B12 as well.
Fatty fish contain the highest levels of Omega-3. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are the best choices if they eat fish. It’s trickier to find in a vegetarian diet.
As teens need over 1 gram of Omega-3 fats per day, you could consider a supplement from an algae-based source of omega-3s.
Which Vitamins And Supplements Are Recommended For Teens With ADHD?
There several nutritional supplements that could support your ADHD child, whether they are on ADHD medications or not. However, it is always essential to consult with your doctor to help you incorporate supplements into your treatment plan.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 supplements are probably the best-researched supplement for ADHD, usually given as fish oil. Numerous studies have found the benefits of Omega-3 fats in the area of hyperactivity, attention, or impulsivity.
The important omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA, which are listed on most product labels. Up to 2,000 mg is recommended for adolescents.
There should be 1.5 to 2 times as much EPA as DHA. A child’s best option for getting the level you need is to give them capsules or a liquid instead of gummies.
While Zinc is not as well researched as omega-3s and iron, there is some positive research on it.
One study showed that giving 15 to 30 mg of Zinc per day reduced the number of stimulants necessary to function optimally by 37% when taken along with a psychostimulant.
There is no concrete evidence to show that giving vitamin D to children with ADHD improves their symptoms. However, as children with ADHD have lower vitamin D levels than children without the condition, it would still be advisable to check vitamin D levels and supplement if the levels are low or even borderline low.
Iron deficiency can be a significant problem in children with ADHD. Iron has been shown to be crucial for brain function, so supplementing with iron can improve symptoms.
It is, however, important to measure the iron levels in your child’s blood first before supplementing it. Always check with your doctor first, as taking too much iron can be toxic.
This mineral won’t boost attention directly, but it may reduce hyperactivity and agitation that can undermine attention.
Magnesium is helpful for children who become irritable after their stimulant medication wears off. Teens can safely take around 400 mg of magnesium glycinate daily.
What Are The Most Common Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies In Teens?
A deficiency occurs over a long period when your child doesn’t get enough vitamins or minerals.
Vitamin deficiencies among teenagers include:
- Vitamin D: a deficiency of vitamin D can cause rickets and bone disease.
- Vitamin B12: a deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a form of anemia. It can be challenging for vegan families to obtain enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods. It might be necessary for them to take supplements.
These are the most common mineral deficiencies in teens:
- Calcium: Lack of calcium can lead to rickets, osteopenia, and osteoporosis.
- Iodine: inadequate amounts of iodine can cause goiter and other conditions such as intellectual disability.
- Iron: Because children need more iron as they grow, they are more vulnerable to iron deficiency than adults. People who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet might also be low in iron. Adolescent girls with frequent, prolonged, or extremely heavy periods are more at risk. Fatigue, concentration problems, and pale skin can result from iron deficiency.
- Zinc: toddlers on a limited diet for a long time and those on a vegan or vegetarian diet are likely to get insufficient Zinc. A Zinc deficiency can slow down the growth of your child.
The table below shows you the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for your teenage boy or girl.
Vitamin Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
|Nutrient||Unit||RDA for teen boys||RDA for teen girls|
|Vitamin B1 Thiamin||mg||1.2||1|
|Vitamin B2 Riboflavin||mg||1.3||1|
|Vitamin B3 Niacin||mg||16||14|
|Vitamin B5 Pantothenic Acid||mg||5||5|
|Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine||mg||1.3||1.2|
|Vitamin B9 Folate||mcg||400||400|
|Vitamin B12 Cobalamin||mcg||2.4||2.4|
|DHA Omega 3|
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does IU Stand For On The Vitamin Bottle Label?
IU stands for International Unit. It is a measurement of a particular substance based on its effect on the human body.
What Is The Difference Between 1000 mcg and 1000 mg?
1000 mcg (micrograms) = 1 mg (milligram)
1000 mg (milligrams) = 1 g (gram)
Is It Better To Take Vitamins In The Morning Or At Night?
Always read the recommendation on the bottle, or as prescribed by your doctor, as to when and how to take your vitamins.
Morning is best for multivitamins and any B vitamins, as the B vitamins in them might stimulate metabolism and brain function too much and could affect sleep.
Do Teen Girls Need Additional Supplements?
Boys and girls need similar vitamins and minerals, depending on their health and activity levels.
However, when girls start menstruation, they could do well on a multivitamin supplement that includes iron, folic acid, and calcium
If your teen daughter is pregnant, then a supplement including folate and iodine might be a good idea.
This is an extensive list of vitamins that teens need for the proper functioning of all cells in their bodies.
Remember that multivitamins should be seen as supplements rather than meal replacements.
Eating a diet that is rich in fresh foods will help their bodies absorb all of the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.
Teens need to understand that vitamins and minerals are essential for growth, development, and overall health.
So if they’re not getting it from their food, they should consider taking a multivitamin supplement.
Please note that I’m not a doctor but have read many articles on the subject, and have linked to medical sites that have done extensive research on several products. Please feel free to refer back to these for more information. Always consult your healthcare professional if you have questions.