The Most Important Vitamins for Teens
Your teen is changing day by day: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s tough work, and her body needs all the nutritional help it can get. It takes a steady supply of vitamins and minerals to support her rapid growth and changing hormones. In fact, the energy demands for the teen years are greater than nearly any other period of life, besides pregnancy.
Unfortunately, teens are not known for their well-balanced diets. As they grow more independent, teens are less likely to eat fresh, home-cooked meals and more likely to grab quick to-go meals and snacks, skip meals and experiment with diets. In one published study, less than 1 percent of the teens surveys ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.1
This means that teens have a higher risk of being low in essential vitamins and minerals, at a time when good nutrition is more important than ever.2 But there’s no need to make the teen years any harder than they have to be. A quality teen multivitamin can help fill those nutritional gaps, helping to fuel her growing body and support her energy, focus, and mood.
Teens have unique nutritional needs, and the best vitamins for teens are designed with those needs in mind. Here are some of the most important vitamins and minerals to look for in a teen multivitamin:
Vitamin A is important for healthy growth and development, including bone growth, which is a major feature of adolescence. A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A also supports healthy immune function, healthy vision, and healthy skin. It has also been used to help with teen acne. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, teens in industrialized countries tend to be low in Vitamin A, so it’s good to look for a teen multivitamin that includes it.
The B vitamins are crucial for good energy and focus. They help convert food into energy, make red blood cells, and transport oxygen through the blood, providing fuel for the body and brain. They also support a healthy nervous system, which is important for a balanced mood.
Folate, or B9, plays an important role in cell production and DNA formation, making it especially important during growth spurts. Higher folate intake is also linked with better academic achievement for teens.3
Vitamin B6 helps the liver to break down hormones, making it essential for healthy hormonal balance. Getting enough B6 has been shown to help alleviate emotional premenstrual symptoms.4
Vitamin B12 supports healthy neurological development and healthy energy levels. Vegans are especially likely to be deficient in this vitamin.
It’s important to take B vitamins in their active, methylated forms, since this is the form that the body naturally uses. Many supplements provide B vitamins in a synthetic form that must be metabolized by the liver before the body can use it. The problem is that, thanks to genetics, nearly half the population can’t metabolize these vitamins successfully. For best results, look for Folate as active Methyl Folate (not folic acid), B12 as Methylcobalamin, and B6 as P-5-P.
Besides keeping the immune system healthy, Vitamin C also helps the body produce collagen, which it needs to grow healthy bones, muscles, and connective tissues as well as healthy skin. Vitamin C is also important because it helps the body to absorb iron, which is especially important during the teen years, as the need for iron increases and risk of deficiency is higher.2
Calcium (& K2)
Teens need more calcium than their parents do -- in fact, about the same amount as their grandparents! That’s because the teen years are crucial for building strong, healthy bones. In fact, the bone density your teen develops now will affect her bone health for her entire life. Though she will get some calcium from her diet, her multivitamin should include some, too -- preferably in a plant-based form, which is easier for the body to absorb. It should also include Vitamin K2, which helps make sure that calcium ends up in the bones, not the soft tissues.
Without Vitamin D, your teen won’t be able to absorb the calcium that she needs for healthy bone growth. But Vitamin D is also very important for immune health, heart health, and a healthy mood. Low levels of vitamin D are linked with a higher risk of colds and flus, and have been shown to manifest as mood imbalances in adolescents.5 In another study, teens with the lowest vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to develop high blood pressure or high blood sugar as those with the highest vitamin D levels.6
Although we can get Vitamin D from healthy sun exposure, multiple studies show that most Americans, including teenagers,7 don’t get enough, especially in winter. It’s one of those supplements that most of us need to take, teens included.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports healthy immune function and healthy skin. It may also be important for a healthy cardiovascular system. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, lack of Vitamin E in teens is surprisingly high, with over 90% of U.S. adolescents getting less than the recommended amount. We recommend a natural, plant-based source of Vitamin E, as it is much more effective in the body than synthetic Vitamin E.8
Iron helps build muscle mass and healthy blood. Teen bodies do this at a faster rate, so they need more iron than adults. Teen girls need more iron than guys, especially once they start menstruating, which increases iron loss. Iron deficiency is common worldwide, especially for women, and teen girls are considered at higher risk.2
Iron isn’t just important for physical growth, but for healthy brain development and neurotransmitter function as well. Iron deficiency can lead to slower cognitive development and weaker school performance,9 and has also been linked with mood disorders and attention disorders in teens.10 In one study, teen girls with an iron deficiency who took iron supplements saw an improvement in verbal learning.11
Magnesium plays hundreds of crucial roles in the body, including energy production, DNA synthesis, and muscle function. It helps the body use calcium to build healthy bones, and it’s great for alleviating muscle cramps, which can help with teen growing pains. Magnesium also has a calming effect on the mind and nervous system, which can help teens with irritability, worry, and sleep issues. Most of us don’t get enough magnesium, including teens, so supplementing is a good idea.
Zinc is essential for healthy growth and development, so it’s especially important during the teen years, and the demands of fast growth put teens at higher risk of deficiency.12 A deficiency in zinc can slow physical growth, as well as delay sexual maturation, since zinc plays an important role in healthy male reproductive function.13 On top of that, zinc is one of the most effective natural immune system boosters and teen acne remedies you can find. Your teen will want to take this one.
Our Whole Food Multivitamin for Teens is specially formulated to help support teen growth and development, energy and focus, healthy skin and a balanced mood. It includes all the nutrients listed above and more, and it’s made with natural ingredients that are easy for the body to absorb, including plant-based sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Calcium, and Magnesium, plus activated B vitamins. We also included a blend of organic fruits and vegetables, since your teen can always use more of those. Our teen multivitamin is non-GMO, vegan, and totally free of preservatives or added sweeteners. We also now have an iron-free version designed for teen guys who are less concerned about getting enough iron.
1. Appelby, Maia. “Daily Requirements for Vitamins for Teens.” SF Gate, Dec 2018.
2. Drake, Victoria J. “Micronutrient Requirements for Adolescents Ages 14-18.” Linus Pauling Institute, July 2012.
3. Nilsson TK, Yngve A, Bottiger AK, Hurtig-Wennlof A, Sjostrom M. High folate intake is related to better academic achievement in Swedish adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(2):e358-365. (PubMed)
4. Doll H, Brown S, Thurston A, Vessey M. Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and the premenstrual syndrome: a randomized crossover trial. J R Coll Gen Pract. 1989 Sep;39(326):364-8. PMID: 2558186; PMCID: PMC1711872.
5. Högberg G, Gustafsson SA, Hällström T, Gustafsson T, Klawitter B, Petersson M. Depressed adolescents in a case-series were low in vitamin D and depression was ameliorated by vitamin D supplementation. Acta Paediatr. 2012 Jul;101(7):779-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2012.02655.x. Epub 2012 Mar 27. PMID: 22372707.
6. DeNoon, Daniel J. “Low Vitamin D Hurts Teens’ Hearts.” WebMD, March 2009.
7. Gordon CM, DePeter KC, Feldman HA, Grace E, Emans SJ. Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency Among Healthy Adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(6):531–537. doi:10.1001/archpedi.158.6.531
8. Burton GW, Traber MG, Acuff RV, Walters DN, Kayden H, Hughes L, Ingold KU. Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Apr;67(4):669-84. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/67.4.669. PMID: 9537614.
9. Coleman, Erin. “Nutrition Problems for Teens.” SFGate, Dec 2018.
10. Chen et al.: Association between psychiatric disorders and iron deficiency anemia among children and adolescents: a nationwide population-based study. BMC Psychiatry 2013 13:161
11. Bruner AB, Joffe A, Duggan AK, Casella JF, Brandt J. Randomised study of cognitive effects of iron supplementation in non-anaemic iron-deficient adolescent girls. Lancet. 1996;348(9033):992-996. (PubMed)
12. Marino DD, King JC. Nutritional concerns during adolescence. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1980;27(1):125-139. (PubMed)
13. Hambidge M. Human zinc deficiency. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1344S-9S. doi: 10.1093/jn/130.5.1344S. PMID: 10801941.