September is an important time of year when nature offers us its final nourishment before we head into the winter. This harvest provides us with many beneficial phytonutrients, which you may be surprised to learn have yet to make it onto any essential nutrient list for our pets. Similar principles also apply to human diets.
Plants provide us with phytonutrients that show themselves in the beautiful array of colours in our fruits and vegetables.
Phytonutrients are the chemical compounds in plants that effect our pets’ metabolism in many different ways. Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that re-stabilise any free radicals in their bodies. Free radicals have unpaired highly reactive electrons that seek out electrons to join and in doing so cause damage to cells that can result in disease. Free radicals are all around us and enter our pets’ bodies via heavy metals, food additives, radiation, pesticides and chemical pollution.
There are four main groups of phytonutrients
Terpenes – Occur in powerful anti-oxidant citrus fruits, also the yellow, red and orange fruits and vegetables we see.
Examples you can add to your pets’ diet include:
Red – Cranberries, Raspberries, Red Cabbage, Watermelon
Orange – Carrots, Sweet Potato, Butternut squash, Oranges, Pumpkin flesh, Mangos
Yellow – Banana, Peppers, Peaches.
Flavanoids – Found in Purple and blue fruits and vegetables such as Blueberries, Beetroot, Figs, Blackberries, Plums as well as some green vegetables such as Kale
Isoflavones – Chickpeas, beans and nuts these are best not to be given on a regular basis , they are high in soy and may block uptake of amino acids on dogs and cats
Lignans– found in flaxseeds buckwheat, broccoli. There is some discussion that Lignans are helpful in cushings disease.
Thiols – Sulphur containing foods found in cruciferous vegetables commonly green in colour, cabbage kale broccoli and brussels. Thiols can interfere with thyroid function so avoid in excess if the dog is hypothyroid. They are also found in cabbage.
Eating a colourful array of fruits and vegetables will boost the anti-oxidants in your pets’ body which may help reduce common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Eating seasonally will ensure the phytonutrients are at their best. Sourcing local and fresh fruits and vegetables will help sustain the anti-oxidant levels that degrade through processing, transportation and dehydration. If you can source organic that’s even better.
Offer a choice
Our pets cannot express cravings or desires for foods, offering a choice of fruits and vegetables is a really nice way of giving them choice. Animals have been observed to self-medicate so extend your choices from fruits and vegetables to herbs and oils too
You can add colour to your pets’ diet whatever you feed. Greens pet food includes seasonal mixed fruit and vegetables that make a convenient excellent topper full of phytonutrients to add to any meal.
When choosing what to add try a variety of these colour groups, feeding a balanced variety will also ensure you are not over doing any one nutrient and are less likely to cause any issues.
A home cooked complementary diet for an adult dog to include seasonal phytonutrients
Per 10 kg bodyweight
280 grams cooked lean pork mince
50 grams cooked pork liver
25 grams Apples with skin
25 grams Blackberries
50 grams sweet potato
1 medium egg
1 gram Salmon oil
1 gram wheat germ oil
1 powdered egg shell
A pinch of kelp powder
Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(8):118–126. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70902
Alugoju, Phaniendra & Babu Jestadi, Dinesh & Periyasamy, Latha. (2014). Free Radicals: Properties, Sources, Targets, and Their Implication in Various Diseases. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 30. 11-26. 10.1007/s12291-014-0446-0.