Are fruits and Vegetables Good for Dogs?
While meat does contain some antioxidants, fruits and vegetables contain significantly higher amounts. Plant-Based foods have a mean of 11.57mmol/100 grams, while animal-based foods have a mean of .18mmol/100 grams. Herbs and Spices are also much higher, as are many plants used more specifically in Herbal/traditional plant medicine.
The phytochemical content is also why the debate in the raw feeding community about including plants is kind of ridiculous.
Do dogs need carbohydrates to survive? No, dogs could survive without being fed vegetables or fruits. Dogs can also survive without fiber, that doesn’t mean its necessarily a good idea to provide a diet devoid of fiber. Adult dogs can also survive without EPA and DHA from marine sources, because they can convert ALA to EPA and DHA even if they aren’t efficient at it.
The real question is, can fruits and vegetables be beneficial for our dogs and cats?
While research in dogs is extremely limited as to what specific phytochemicals and the amount necessary to actually confer a benefit, that doesnt mean we shouldnt include them. That just means we need to concentrate on providing a good amount of them and a variety of them. Not necessarily because of the vitamin or mineral content, but because of the different phytochemicals they all provide.
There is a reason why it is commonly recommended to eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. That you should eat the rainbow. While it’s definetly not a perfect solution, it is an excellent mental shortcut to providing a wider range of phytochemicals.
What Fruits and Vegetables are good for dogs?
To determine which fruits and vegetables are good for our dogs and cats, we must look at what specific phytochemicals are found and in what quantity.
While the ORAC, TROLOX, FRAP and the other measurements have been criticized as irrelevant because the studies have been conducted in vitro. It does represent a starting point at which we can begin to evaluate different fruits vegetables and herbs.
Many phytochemicals have demonstrated plenty of potential in vitro, the problem, however, is and will be translating those results to in vivo.
One of the major problems with studying phytochemicals is that we don’t know the ideal inclusion level, and it is difficult to measure their effect as this is complicated by the fact that part of their benefit has to be measured over a long period of time. This relies more heavily on longitudinal and epidemiological studies.
This has been a significant challenge for one of the most widely studied compounds, Curcumin, the primary bioactive compound of interest in Turmeric, which suffers from extremely poor bioavailability. Some studies have used the whole plant, others have used curcumin extracts, and others have used curcumin extracts in addition to using methods known to improve bioavailability. This, along with inconsistent dosing across studies, has resulted in high variability across different studies.
Importance of Antioxidants
Antioxidants help fight free radicals within the body. This help reduces the levels of Oxidative Stress.
While certain levels of oxidative stress and free radicals are important too much has been linked to a number of health conditions and is why it has sometimes been called the silent killer.
Antioxidants can be hydrophilic (water-soluble) or lipoic (fat-soluble). Some vitamins and minerals also act as antioxidants.
There are likely several million different phytochemicals found in nature. While by no means are all phytochemicals good, many have demonstrated potential at supporting health through different means. There are many differernt classes of phytochemicals.
One major family of antioxidants in plants is terpenoids. Many of the Terpenoids are fat-soluble. Terpenoids are broken down into Carotenes, Xanthophylls, Triterpenoids, Monoterpenes, Steroids, and Diterpenes. Beta Carotene is by far the most well known carotene, this is mostly because of its pro vitamin a activity .
The next class are Phenolic Compounds. Many of the phytochemicals that the average person is familiar with are found in this family, ie Curcumin, Capisacin, Resveratrol, Quercetin Given the extensive nature of this family, it is better to use an image to illustrate it as a list.
- Aromatic Acids
- Phenolic Acids
- Such as Capsaicin, Gingerol, Piperine
There are also Glucosinolates, which are commonly found in the brassica family (cabbage) and are responsible for the benefits often attributed to them. There are also betalains, chlorophylls, animes, and some carbohydrates such as Monosaccharides, and Polysaccharides. Beta Glucans which are Polysaccharides from mushrooms, algae, yeast, and cereal grains is one major area of interest.
There are many others, but they are generally of lesser interest.
Our Antioxidant Boost
Our Antioxidant Boost is a combination of 17 different Fruits Vegetables and Herbs. Each ingredient selected for our Antioxidant boost was picked for several reasons.
Our Criteria for Inclusion
- Ensuring a wide range of phytonutrients from each of the classes and subclasses.
- Provide a wide range of essential nutrients and technically nonessential nutrients (according to AAFCO, NRC, and FEDIAF) so that it can be a compliment either by itself or when added to our dog food toppers. While neither the boost or toppers are complete and balanced, the toppers do come relatively close with only a few exceptions.
- Other Compounds evidence supporting their use as nutraceuticals, such as Dietary Nitrates and Digestive Enzymes.
- Decent Source of both soluble and insoluble Fiber
- Sugar Content. When Formulating the Antioxidant boost, it was necessary to still monitor the amount of sugar provided.
Our Antioxidant Boost is included at a rate of 12.5% in the dog food toppers that include the Antioxidant Boost. We debated including it at a higher inclusion rate, but settled on 12.5% as a good point between palatability for the dogs that don’t like fruits and vegetables while still providing a good amount of them in the topper.
Beetroot has been highly valued for much of human history. According to one manuscript, Beetroots were grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Beetroot was so highly regarded in Ancient Greece that they were offered on a Silver Platter to Apollo.
Beetroot has been associated with several health benefits throughout history. Many of them relate to their high content of dietary nitrates and phytochemicals found within Beets.
Among the classes of phytochemicals are Betains, Betalines, Polyphenols, Phenolic Acids, Saponins, and Flavonoids.
Betalins are what give beets their distinctive color. The primary difference between Red and gold Beets are that Red beet contain betacyanin while golden contain betaxanthins.
Betanin which is found in red beets is one of the specific phytochemicals of interest in beets. As it has demonstrated a good amount of potential in vitro. One of the great things about Betain is that it spares both Choline and Methionine. This frees up both Choline and Methionine to serve other purposes within the body.
Some of the other Antioxidants found within beetroot are Quercetin, Luteolin, Gallic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Apigenin, and Catechin.
Beets also contain pectin, a fiber that has been shown to help eliminate toxins from the body. In addition to being a prebiotic for the gut microbiome.
Broccoli, Watercress, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Radish
We Include 5 different members of the Brassicaceae family. While each is a valuable source of many phytochemicals, it’s the Glucosinolates that are of interest with each being a valuable source of different Glucosinolates which when combined with the enzyme Myrosinase they become there different isothiocynate products. The most famous of which is sulforaphane.
Pineapples have been a part of traditional medicine for centuries.
While Pineapples are packed with several phytochemicals, the ultimate reason for Pineapple’s inclusion is that pineapples also contain a digestive enzyme called Bromelain.
Bromelain is a digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of protein into its building blocks, such as amino acids and smaller peptides. Once the protein is broken down, they are more readily absorbed in the small intestine. This can potentially be helpful for dogs with pancreatic insufficiency, a condition in which the pancreas cannot make enough digestive enzymes.
Besides being a digestive enzyme, research suggests that bromelain can enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of Quercetin.
Mangos also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals such as mangiferin, catechins, anthocyanins, gallic acid, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and benzoic acid.. Additionally, it is a source of a different digestive enzyme namely Amylase. Unlike Bromelain, Amylase, aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates instead of protein. This could in theory at least be beneficial for dog breeds that have fewer copies of the AMY2B gene.
Among the phytochemicals found in bananas are the Phenolic Compounds, (quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, cyanidin, Catechin, Gallic acid, Cinnamic acid, p-Coumaric acid, Gallocatechin gallate, Violaxanthin, and Ferulic acid.), Carotenoids (b-carotene, a-carotene, b-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, and lutein. Additionally, Bananas are a source of biogenic amines namely Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine
We use Bananas that are just slightly more yellow than green in the ripening stage. This is done as that is when the antioxidant levels are the highest, and while the sugar content is lower. (de Souza 2021)
There is a reason why blueberries are commonly featured on packaging and marketing materials, and that is because are a rich source of phytochemicals with the Anthocyanidins taking center stage. Blueberries are also a source of many other phytochemicals such as the stilbene Resveratrol in addition to Gallic acid, Protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, luteolin rutin, myricetin, quercetin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin (Not to be confused with Epigallocatechin Gallate), and catechins.
Kiwis are not just delicious; they also contain a digestive enzyme called actinidain, which aids in the digestion of protein. While Kiwis are a rich source of Vitamin C it also happens to be a valuables source of Protocatechuic acid, Caffeic acid, Gallocatechin, Quinic acid, and another compound of interest PQQ which has drawn interests in longevity research.
Artichoke is a close relative of Milk Thistle and like Milk Thistle it also contains Silymarin. In Addition to being a source of Silymarin, artichoke is also a valuable source of other phytochemicals such as lutein, and chlorogenic acid.
Lingonberry is a close relative of cranberries. The major differences between the 2 is that Lingonberry contains around 2 times as many phytochemicals.
An Apple a Day Keeps the doctor away, might be an overstatement, but apples are a rich source of many phytochemicals, among them are Festin, Procyanidin C1, Ursolic Acid, Quercetin, Phloretin to name a few.
The Red color of grapefruit is due to the carotenoid Lycopene. In addition to lycopene, Grapefruit is a valuable source of the flavnones Naringenin, and Hesperetin.
Parsley is far and away the best source of a phytochemical called Apigenin.
Like Apples, Pomegranates are a source of Ursolic Acid, , but the content is significantly higher in pomegranate. In addition to Ursolic Acid, Pomengrantes are a source of Ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is converted to another compound of interest Urolithin A.
While everyone is probably familiar with the Vitamin E isomer tocopherols, Far fewer are aware of tocotreniols which research suggests is more potent than the common Tocopherols.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that they are all sources of different fibers, and that is something that shouldn’t be ignored.