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Few teens have eating habits that mirror U.S. dietary recommendations for fat and fiber, but those who do have more nutritious diets overall, according to research in a recent edition of the Journal of Pediatrics.
"Teens whose diets were rich in fiber and low in fat consumed more vitamins and minerals and less total cholesterol and saturated fat than their peers," says Theresa Nicklas, MD, a nutritionist with the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston. The diet's nutritional advantage included more iron, zinc, calcium, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, B6, and B12.
According to Nicklas, although the low-fat, high-fiber diets provided higher levels of nutrients, the energy level was about the same as those from most other groups.
"This eases the concern that low-fat, high-fiber diets might be too low in energy for growing teens, and that those who choose this eating pattern are overly calorie conscious," notes Nicklas. A low-fat, high-fiber diet is recommended for all Americans over the age of two to reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer risk.
Despite the nutritional and disease-preventing advantages of such a diet, only one-third of the 319 students in the study had this eating pattern.
"We know that low-fat, high-fiber diets are healthier," says Nicklas. "Now, we need to do a better job of helping teens make appropriate food choices, such as opting to snack on fruit and vegetables instead of munching on low-fiber, high-fat treats."