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This may seem like a silly question to some - how could nutrient-rich, healthy fruits and vegetables possibly be BAD? But you would be surprised how many people are averse to including ANY amount of fruits and/or vegetables into their dogs diet because of a few myths.
Busting Some Myths:
1) "People food is bad for dogs". I am always surprised by this statement. I mean, food is food. There is no "people food" vs "dog food" - we CREATED processed dog food. Table scraps do not always equal bad choices, unless of course we are talking about "human junk foods" like pizza crust, chips, etc. Tables scraps can be a great addition to your pet's diet, in proper amounts, as long as they are HEALTHY scraps.
2) "Dogs don't eat carbs in the wild, so they can't process them." Also untrue. Studies of wild canids have shown that when in the wild, one of the first parts of prey they will eat, is the STOMACH, which includes pre-digested fruits & plant matter that the prey animal has eaten.
3) "Carbs turn into sugar when processed and sugar feeds yeast." While this may be partially true, what we are talking about in this series are GOOD carbs with a low-glycemic index like fresh fruits & vegetables. There are lots of LOW-GLYCEMIC fruits & vegetables that contain low amounts of naturally-occurring sugars. This is a really important distinction.
4) People associate Carbohydrates with grains, and in today's "Grain-Free dominant" marketplace for dog food, people assume that because fruits & vegetables also fall into the Carbs category, they are bad too - guilty by association! Again, there are VERY different kinds of carbs, and the ones we want to focus on and provide in our dog's diet, are the good ones that provide VALUE.
So, in short, YES! Fruits & Vegetables are good for dogs in proper amounts, when properly selected & prepared.
What Benefits Do They Provide?
Fruits & vegetables can provide vitamins and minerals not present in animal-based ingredients. Here is just a short list of some of the amazing benefits:
- Antioxidants - in today's world of factory farming, pesticide use and other food chain contaminants, the process of oxidation in the body produces unstable chemicals called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and other structures. Free radicals have been linked to a variety of diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants are compounds in foods that scavenge and neutralize free radicals. Evidence suggests that antioxidant supplements do not work as well as the naturally occurring antioxidants in foods such as fruits and vegetables. We will talk more in a later part of this series about the top fruits & veggies, but some of my favourite antioxidants come from blueberries (anthocyanins), carrots, spinach & parsley (beta-carotene), sweet potatoes (Vitamin A), and cabbage (indoles).
- Fibre - When you think of fibre, you probably first think of things like wheat & grains, but fibre fruits & vegetables are excellent source of fibre too! Fibre is essential to balance a dog's diet, to keep their digestive system moving, and fibre enhances the energy and nutrients that come from the meat part of their meals. Everything from wheatgerm to carrots, to apples count as fibre in a dog's diet. We'll talk about some of the best picks for fibre in a future part of this series.
- Trace minerals, Vitamins & Phytonutrients - According to the NRC Nutrient Requirements for Adult Dogs , there are 24 essential vitamins & minerals required in a balanced diet. They are crucial for the proper development and function of your dog’s body. Specific minerals must also be present in a dog food in the right amounts to provide optimal health. Minerals work together to coordinate various body functions and maintain normal activities on a daily basis. Many essential minerals for dogs are provided by common fruits, vegetables, meats and whole grains. In addition to vitamins & minerals, fruits & vegetables contain Phytonutrients - chemical compounds naturally created by plants to ward off predators, parasites, and disease.
- Enrichment - imagine being asked to eat the same dry food for every meal? Not very stimulating! Adding a variety of fresh foods to your pet's diet, including fruits and/or vegetables keeps their diet interesting, introduces them to new things and adds enrichment to their life.
Studies have shown that adding up 20% fresh food ingredients to a dog's commercial diet can boost the nutrition and extend life. Even the most high-quality kibble available on the market is subject to nutrient loss in the high-temperature rendering process. These nutrients need to be added back into the kibble in the form of synthetic vitamins & minerals. Fresh foods often provide a much more bio-available version of these nutrients. A study done by Purdue University showed that adding fresh vegetables to dry commercial kibble actually prevented and/or slowed down the development of certain types of cancers.
So, now that I've convinced you that most fruits & vegetables are good for your dog in proper amounts and if prepared properly...which ones should you choose? That's the next part of this mini-series, so stay tuned!
UP NEXT - BEST FRUITS & VEGETABLES FOR DOGS
 - we will discuss in a later part of this series, which fruits & vegetables are suitable for dogs, in what amounts, and how they should be prepared. Things like onions & grapes should NEVER be fed and others, such as broccoli may need to be used in moderations as they contain something called oxalates & Glucosinolates which are 'anti-nutrients". More to follow on this.
 - the guidelines that most nutritionists use for formulate a properly balanced diet
Purdue University Study; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16013542/