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Is What You Eat (or Don't Eat) Making You Sick?

Is What You Eat (or Don't Eat) Making You Sick?

How can poor nutrition affect my health?
What causes anemia?
Do I need more calcium?
Is being overweight dangerous?

For some girls, being a teen means spending more time away from your home. That may mean you are making more food choices on your own. Part of that new freedom can mean trying new things. Some girls experiment with vegetarian diets. Others change their food choices in hopes of improving their athletic performance. And fad diets can lead girls to eat too little or too much. All of these changes can put girls at risk for poor nutrition. back to top

How can poor nutrition affect my health?
If your body isn't getting the nutrients it needs, you can develop a variety of health problems, from dry skin and tooth decay to life-threatening illnesses like anorexia.

As busy as you are, do not skip meals. Eating regular meals can keep you from overeating. Plus, your developing body needs a certain number of calories and nutrients like vitamins and minerals every day.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result in medical conditions ranging from skin problems to depression. Most girls get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a variety of foods or by following the MyPyramid. But if your body doesn't get enough of a mineral called iron, you could get anemia. And girls who don't get enough calcium from the foods they eat are at risk for brittle bones and osteoporosis. back to top

What causes anemia?
Iron is found in hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs through your bloodstream to your cells. When your cells receive their oxygen delivery, they use it to create energy. If you don't get enough iron from the foods you eat, your body won't make enough hemoglobin. That means your cells won't get the oxygen they need, and you'll feel weak and tired, both mentally and physically. Most girls get all the iron they need by making healthy food choices. If you've started getting your period, your body loses some iron every month. For this reason, it's important to make sure you are getting enough iron. To increase your iron intake, eat red meats, shellfish, legumes (peas and dried beans), and iron-fortified breads and cereals. back to top

Do I need more calcium?
Getting enough calcium now is one of the keys to preventing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which your bones become brittle and can break easily. People with this condition also tend to get a humped back as they get older. Girls who exercise a lot and don't eat enough calcium-rich food are at risk for osteoporosis. Most girls can get all the calcium they need by drinking milk and eating dairy products, canned salmon with the bones, oysters, broccoli, and tofu. If you prefer not to eat dairy products, check out dairy alternatives. back to top

Is being overweight dangerous?
Obesity is a problem for girls who are 20 percent or more overweight. Many serious health problems are related to overweight and obesity, including high cholesterol. Being overweight increases a girl's risk for developing heart disease, the leading cause of death among women. There is no set number that says you are too thin, too heavy, or just right. Scales may be handy, but a better way to figure out if your weight is healthy is to measure the proportion of fat in your body to lean body mass. Use the body mass index calculator to see if it's time for you to make some changes in your diet. back to top

Last Modified Date: 1/5/2001
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