The term “clean eating” has become a popular buzz word for a particular type of healthy eating and this term refers to a diet made up of eating whole foods, or “real” foods. Meaning those that are un- or minimally processed, refined and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.
This term can also be applied to pet nutrition and a raw food diet is the embodiment of the pet version of clean eating. A raw food diet is a diet made up of minimally processed, raw, natural ingredients – essentially, it’s the modern day version of what dog’s ancestors, grey wolves, still eat in the wild.
A balanced raw food diet for pets contains the following key, whole food ingredient groups:
– Lean muscle meat
– Real bone
– Vegetables and fruits
– Other healthy ingredients
In addition to providing the correct balance of ingredients in the right proportions, a raw diet is considered superior for pets for a few key reasons:
1. Genetics – Dogs and their wolf relatives share 99.9% of their DNA, so while they may look different, on the inside their dietary requirements have not evolved for thousands of years.
2. Physical characteristics – Dogs skull and jaw composition as well as their digestive system were built to digest and thrive on raw, natural foods.
3. None of the ingredients in a raw, clean pet diet have been de-natured or adversely affected by cooking so are at their most nutritionally dense, highest quality and therefore beneficial.
4. If prepared correctly, nothing synthetic should be added to a raw diet as synthetic ingredients have been associated with health problems in pets. This includes synthetic vitamins and minerals which are often required to overcompensate for the nutritional damage caused by cooking foods.
Superfoods are also a hot topic when it comes to human health and many superfoods that are beneficial for humans are also beneficial for pets. Some of the top picks for dogs are:
– Kelp – This is a brown marine plant that is high in minerals and contains vitamins A, B, E, D and K. It also contains sodium alginate (algin), which helps process and remove heavy metals from the dogs’ system. Kelp is also a good source of iodine that helps promote thyroid function.
-Spirulina – Spirulina is an algae, high in protein and rich in the essential fatty acid GLA (Gamma Linolenic acid), which is anti-inflammatory. Spirulina contains vitamin C, B complex, and E, carotenoids, chlorophyll and phycocyanin. Spirulina is a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system. It is especially beneficial for older dogs as a highly digestible food which is nutrient dense.
– Turmeric – Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which is its primary active ingredient. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, wound healing and anticancer activities. It can help fight diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, gastrointestinal issues, Alzheimers and more.
– Wheatgrass – This is a nutrient dense grass containing a large range of vitamins, amino acids, chlorophyll, fibre and enzymes. These components have broad ranging health benefits including antioxidant activity, helping with detoxification processes and aiding digestion.
– Probiotics – These micro-organisms have a vast influence over the health of our pets. Not only do they help keep the digestive system healthy and functioning optimally, they have an important role in maintaining healthy immune system function. These primary benefits mean that probiotics can help with digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea and gas as well as common immune system complaints in pets such as skin allergies.
– Prebiotics – Prebiotics are the food that probiotics need to thrive, stay active and do their job. Many fresh fruit and veg act as natural prebiotics and should be included as part of a healthy raw diet to serve this function.
– Garlic – In moderation, garlic has many positive actions to help the health of dogs. These include antibacterial, immuno-stimulant, anti-cancer, nutritive, antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-fungal and tonic qualities. Garlic is commonly used to help maintain healthy cardiovascular and immune system function and is a great multi-system tonic for older dogs.
– Coconut oil – Commonly known for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, coconut oil is a great addition, in the right amount, to our pet’s diets. It has benefits in promoting skin, digestive and immune system health.
There are many more superfoods for pets that haven’t been mentioned in this summary and many more are likely to be uncovered as further research emerges. It’s good to keep in mind that not all foods that are considered superfoods for humans are suitable for pets, so it’s important to do your research in this area before sharing your superfood-boosted clean eating meals with your dog.
If you’re interested in learning more about raw diets for pets and healthy superfood additions for the health of your furry family member, Dog’s Naturally Magazine has a large number of detailed articles on many of the topics touched on in this article.