Why Carbohydrates Are Good For Dogs
I am a big believer in feeding a dog in a way that is appropriate for their carnivore ancestry. This means feeding a diet that is high in protein and fat and relatively low in carbohydrates (e.g. carbs should not make up more than 40% of the macronutrients in a food). However, there are many health benefits associated with foods that are high in carbohydrates and a dog should be able to benefit as well. The key is to understand that all carbohydrates are not created equal (from a health perspective) and to make sure that your dog is getting enough of the right type of carbohydrates and avoiding the wrong type of carbs.
Health Benefits of Carbohydrates
You might think I am crazy espousing the health benefits of carbohydrates. With all of the marketing out there promoting low-carb, gluten free, and grain free diets (for both humans and dogs!), why would I buck the trend? It turns out that food sources containing carbohydrates can provide a dog with crucial vitamins and minerals. Further, some carbs can provide phytonutrients, which while not essential to keep a dog alive (like protein and fat, vitamins and minerals, and water are), can indeed provide a dog with health benefits.
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are chemicals that are found naturally in plants. Two of the most well-known types of phytonutrients are carotenoids and flavonoids. Carotenoids (e.g. alpha- and beta- carotene) provide the right red, orange, green and yellow pigments of vegetables like kale, broccoli, peppers, pumpkin, and carrots. Flavonoids, which include the pigments (called anthocyanin pigments) that provide many fruits and vegetables with their red, blue, and purple color. Examples of foods loaded with flavonoids include blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peppers, some beans and red cabbage.
Phytonutrients available in fruits and vegetables are thought to provide the body with benefits due to several reasons:
- They act as antioxidants
- They can help the body detoxify (especially carcinogens)
- They can enhance and support the immune system
- They can help repair DNA damage
- They can reduce internal inflammation and the associated risk of inflammatory diseases
Carbohydrates that are Good for a Dog
As previously mentioned, not all carbs are created equal. There are, thankfully, a wide choice of carbohydrates that are good for a dog.
Most fruits including apples, berries, and melons. (Note: grapes and raisins are harmful to a dog).
Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.
Some legumes including pinto, garbanzo, and kidney beans, peas, and lima beans.
As an added benefit, many of the above carbohydrates can provide a dog with fiber, which is helpful for proper gastrointestinal function.
The bottom line is that carbohydrates can and should play an important part of a healthy dog’s diet. Just make sure that your dog is getting the right kinds of carbs, and that their diet is not too carb heavy.
— SlimDoggy (@MySlimDoggy) January 19, 2016