Iron is an important mineral that is a part of every cell in the body. It helps the muscles use and store oxygen and also plays a vital role in enzyme function. Teenagers, along with babies, require more iron than younger children and adults. Not getting enough iron from the diet could lead to an iron deficiency, which can have negative consequences health consequences for teenage boys.
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Reading the RDAs
The recommended daily allowance of iron for healthy teenage males, as set by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, is 11 milligrams per day for 14 to 18-year-olds. Teenage boys slightly above or below this age group --- 13 and 19-year-olds -- need a little less, at 8 milligrams per day.
A number of foods are rich in iron, so teenagers should be able to meet their daily needs through a balanced diet. Most red meats contain between 1.3 and 3.3 milligrams of iron per 2 1/2-ounce serving, while nuts have between 1.3 and 2.2 milligrams per 1/4 cup. Seafood such as oysters and mussels have a high iron content, as do whole-grain cereals, soybeans and dark green leafy vegetables.
The two different types of iron are heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal sources and is absorbed up to three times more efficiently than non-heme iron from plant sources. Ideally, teenagers should look to include both heme and non-heme iron providing foods in their diet. When following a plant-based diet and only consuming non-heme iron, however, the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois recommends cooking foods in an iron pot or skillet.
To ensure a maximum uptake of all the iron consumed, a teenage boy can do a number of things. Eating a diet that contains animal products is the first step, though for teenagers on a vegetarian eating plan, eating more vitamin C can help. Vitamin C increases the absorption of non-heme iron, but the foods must be eaten at the same time. Consider advising your teenager to avoid iron inhibitors at a time when they're consuming an iron-rich meal too. These inhibitors include calcium, zinc, tea, coffee and cocoa.