Supporting Teen Health: Mood Management

Supporting Teen Health: Mood Management

Author -  Good Health

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Vitamin D

Research suggests that vitamin D supplementing can reduce anxiety, depression and improve cognitive impairments. Our main source of Vitamin D comes from the sun, meaning levels are often low in the winter. As Vitamin D modulates several neurotransmitters, it is generally held responsible for the development of seasonal affective disorder, a depressive disorder commonly occurring over winter. If you are concerned your teenagers may have low Vitamin D levels, you can get these checked with a blood test. 


Lower levels of zinc have been found in people suffering from depression, and supplementation has been investigated as a treatment in addition to pharmaceutical therapy. This mineral is crucial during teenage years as it helps to support the production of hormones in the body. Zinc can be difficult to get through food as it is deficient in our soil, therefore many teenagers do not consume enough zinc regularly. If your teenager has acne, especially pimples that tend to scar, could be an indication that your teen needs more zinc. 

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Folate and Vitamin B12

Low levels of folate and Vitamin B12 are commonly seen in people suffering from depression. Similarly, high levels of homocysteine are found in sufferers of depression; homocysteine is a by-product which remains high when Vitamins B6, B12 and folate are deficient, and that impairs the function of neurotransmitters and their receptors. If your teenager suffers from fatigue, this is another indication they may be deficient in folate or Vitamin B12. 


Protein consumption increases the levels of tyrosine, and tryptophan, amino acids which help to manufacture neurotransmitters. Healthy brains produce hundreds of neurotransmitters that are needed to deliver chemical messages and support the health of our body and mind. Tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, our pleasure and mood regulating hormone; and tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, which helps to regulate our mood, social behaviour, sleep and appetite. Consuming adequate complete protein from animal sources or quinoa, or pairing uncomplete protein sources together (i.e. rice and beans) can ensure teenagers have all the amino acids that their developing brains need.

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Omega 3

Fatty acids are a large component of the brain, they not only influence our cognition, but our mental health. Depression rates are 10 times higher in countries with limited access to seafood, and research suggests that a healthy balance of omega 3- to omega-6 fatty acids influences the metabolism of our neurotransmitters which may influence both our mood and behaviour. It is important to remember that processed food is high in omega-6 fatty acids, and fish, nuts and seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. When we consume more omega-6’s than omega-3s, this causes inflammation in the body and can lead to a number of health conditions.

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Teen depression is serious, and when untreated it can be life-threatening. It is important to provide teenagers with the nutrients they need to support a healthy brain, and teach them that food can help them manage their moods. If you see warning signs, or believe a teen is at risk of hurting themselves or others, seek medical help immediately.

There are a number of associations that you can call to get help.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat

1737 Need to talk? Free call or text any time for support from a trained counsellor

What's Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7. – or email or free text 5626

Anxiety New Zealand - 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

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