• Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN

Benefits of Fruits & Veggies

Updated: May 26

Vegetation for canines can be controversial, but it all comes down to quantity and quality. When appropriately added, it can have immense health benefits for every type of diet.


Why Are Fruits & Vegetables Beneficial?

High glycemic and processed carbohydrates in a canine bowl can lead to poor health. But high quality, low-glycemic plant matter has many health benefits.


A study done by The Voyageurs Wolf Project revealed during peak berry season (July-August), wolves (canine lupous) consume berries and other wild fruits willingly. While a method to determine precisely how much was consumed is yet to be discovered, in 10 wolves, an estimate of 0.468 kg of berries was consumed.



Dogs are not obligate carnivores, unlike felines and ferrets. Instead, they are facultative carnivores, meaning they will also eat non-animal foods. While their diet should be primarily made of meat, their food options are much more varied and have included vegetation naturally in the form of gut contents in their prey and scavenging for fruits and berries.


Fruits & veggies are excellent sources of vitamins & minerals, phytonutrients, polyphenols, and fiber. Adding this addition into the bowl, whether kibble-fed or fresh-fed, can benefit greatly. But ensure to only feed low-glycemic fruits and veggies and stay away from starchier ones such as potatoes, peas, and beans.


What's Low-Glycemic?

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized, causing a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, thus, insulin levels. Higher starchy vegetables such as squash or sweet potato can be fed, but starch results in a higher glycemic index. Although this can be beneficial in low-fat diets where an additional energy source is needed.


Antioxidants

Plants are loaded with antioxidants, which help against free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause long-term harm to your dog. Free radicals can damage cells and DNA, which speed the aging process. This is called oxidative stress, and it’s a bit like rust accumulating in the body. But antioxidants can help clean up the damage. Certain fruits also contain digestive enzymes like pineapple (bromelain) and papaya (papain), which help with anti-aging, anti-degeneration, and overall better health.



Fiber

Vegetation is rich in fiber which is crucial as the undigested fiber (insoluble) is food for the gut's beneficial bacteria. Fiber is food for the bacteria and is converted to Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are used for energy, immune cells, and protecting the gut lining. In addition, this fiber helps synthesize Vitamin K.


Polyphenols

The body's relationship with polyphenols and the gut is complex, symbiotic, and significant. Therefore, there is much more to learn and discover with polyphenols. Polyphenols (phytochemicals) are potent antioxidants made of many phenols grouped only found in plant material. This means they can neutralize free radicals that damage cells and increase metabolic diseases. Polyphenols also aid in reducing inflammation, which is where all disease stems.


Polyphenols have been reported to have a wide spectrum of biological activities, including a major impact on initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer by modulating different signaling pathways - Hindawi.


The amount of polyphenols a plant contains depends on the food, origin, ripeness, farming practice, transportation, storage, and more. Many polyphenol supplements are out on the market, but they are less beneficial than polyphenol-rich foods.


When To Be Cautious

There is no precaution to take in healthy dogs except prepping veggies approximately and feeding in appropriate amounts. Anything in excess can cause problems. That is why feeding in moderate quantities and rotating foods is essential. But dogs with diagnosed health conditions must be cautious with their individual needs. The most important part is to do what is best for the individual dog. The most common health issues involving veggies are:


∙ Hypothyroid issues should avoid cruciferous vegetables

∙ Histamine sensitivities should avoid high histamine veggies

∙ Oxalate problems should avoid oxalate veggie

∙ Inflammatory problems should avoid nightshades


Plant matter should also not be relied on as a source of essential nutrients when there is an animal counterpart. This is due to nutrients from animals being much more bioavailable than from plants. For example, iron is an easy example due to the clear distinction between heme and non-heme iron, but bioavailability and absorption are factors to consider for all minerals. Each mineral has its own set of interactions with other nutrients. It has many different forms (including multiple organic and supplemental forms) and concentration considerations that can affect how well the animal can use the nutrient. “The absorption and bioavailability of Fe in dogs can vary enormously, from close to 100% to less than 10%, depending on the ionic form of Fe in the diet, Fe status, dietary Fe concentration, and several other factors. ” (NRC 2006)


Preparation

Raw plant matter can be quite hard for canines to digest. Thus, it is vital to prep the plant for maximum bioavailability. This is because canines are not equipped with the biological functions to digest plant matter, such as herbivores and omnivores. Breaking down plant matter before feeding allows for proper digestion. Optimal ways to do this are:


∙ Blending

∙ Fermenting

∙ Steaming

∙ Boiling

∙ Sautéing in a healthy fat


What Preparation Method Should I Use?

More watery plant matter such as berries and cucumbers can be blended or mashed without cooking. However, less moist or starchier vegetables such as squash, beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes must be cooked via steaming or boiling to maximize absorption.


DIY Veggie Mix

Supplies needed


∙ Cutting board

∙ Knife

∙ Bowls

∙ Blender


Ingredients

All plant matter used should be non-starchy, low-glycemic fruits & vegetables. A list of the most commonly used plant matter is below.


In this specific recipe:

∙ Spinach

∙ Kale

∙ Dandelion Greens

∙ Microgreens

∙ Cucumber

∙ Zucchini


Directions

1. Gather all your produce.

2. Peel the produce stickers off.

3. Rinse all produce.

4. Cut ingredients into small pieces for easy blending.




5. Add some liquid to cover the veggies and blend.

Pro tip: Add in 1tbsp wheatgrass powder per 250mL (8oz) to thicken the veggie mix.



6. Feed & Freeze.


Dosage:

1/2-1 tsp. small dogs

2-3 tsp. medium dogs

1-2 tbsp. large dogs


Veggie mixes are great for fresh diets and kibble boosters. Plants are great as long as it's quality over quantity and prepared appropriately. I hope you learned something new today & Always Keep Exploring!

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