Phytonutrients & Why They Matter to Dogs
There's a lot of research underway studying the powerful health benefits of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds in plants - especially brightly coloured fruits and vegetables - that deliver health benefits. So far, researchers have discovered over 25,000 different phytonutrients!
A few of the main categories of phytonutrients are carotenoids which encompass beta carotene, lycopene, and zeaxanthin; polyphenols which include flavonoids; and glucosinolates which is the precursor to isothiocyanates and has been shown to inactivate carcinogens and inhibit tumor blood vessel formation. Each of these groups are then subcategorized based on their chemical structure.
Foods rich in carotenoids include sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, squash, bell peppers, and cantaloupe.
Foods rich in polyphenols are berries, apples, red cabbage, pomegranates and culinary herbs such as parsley and basil.
Foods that are very high in isothiocyanates include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Here's why phytonutrients are amazing:
promote cardiovascular health
support the immune system
act as antioxidants
What do antioxidants do?
Antioxidants protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. This type of damage leads to aging and disease. Free radicals are unstable molecules which are byproducts from normal cell function. Free radicals are also produced from consuming oxidized fats, exposure to pollution and toxins in the environment such as herbicides and pesticides.
All dogs, regardless of the type of food they eat, can benefit from the phytonutrients that are in fresh vegetables and fruit.
Feed the Rainbow
Phytonutrients and antioxidants work best as a team - they are stronger together and feeding a wide variety of plants, as tolerated by your dog, is a good idea.