Why Your Dog Needs an Antioxidant-Rich Diet
Antioxidants are just as important for your dog as they are for you, and their role in good health will convince you that fresh food is a must for your dog - and for you.
Antioxidants and free radicals are two words that get used a lot when it comes to disease, disease prevention, and aging. Let's have a quick science vocabulary mini lesson. Just for fun!
Three of the big players in aging and disease, and their prevention are: free radicals, antioxidants, and oxidative stress.
The term 'free radicals' always makes me think of a heavy metal garage band. Free radicals are molecules that are unstable and highly reactive. They can damage cells and the DNA contained in those cells. Free radicals have a multiplying effect - once a free radical damages a cell, that once healthy cell then becomes a free radical itself and then a whole chain reaction of damaged cells takes place. The body has defenses to deal with a certain amount of free radicals and antioxidants are key defenders.
Antioxidants are a bit like bouncers at the club, and their job is to deal with free radicals. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and help prevent them from forming without becoming free radicals themselves.
Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants - and there is an over-abundance of free radicals.
Oxidative Stress is "now thought to make a significant contribution to all of the inflammatory diseases." (source)
Free radicals and oxidative stress are connected with aging (both normal and premature), inflammation and diseases resulting from inflammation such as auto-immune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and joint disorders, cancer, as well as heart disease, cognitive decline, and ocular diseases.
Factors That Contribute to Free Radical Formation
Free radicals are natural by-products of the body doing its work and are more likely to occur as bodies age. There are also a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to free radical formation such as:
exposure to chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, cleaning chemical, toxins)
x-rays and radiation
Health Benefits of Antioxidants
Researchers estimate that there are thousands of antioxidants, and there is still so much that we don't know about antioxidants and their roles as nutraceuticals. That being said, research suggests that antioxidants have a number of health benefits including:
decreased inflammation (many diseases result from chronic inflammation. e.g. auto-immune diseases, diabetes, cancer)
improved eye health
improved cognition and brain health
improved joint health
improved heart cardiovascular health
Antioxidant-Rich Food for Your Dog
Let 'eat the rainbow' be your guide in choosing antioxidant-rich food for your dog. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
fruits and vegetables - in particular: berries,pomegranate seeds, green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, orange, red and yellow vegetables and fruit
herbs and spices such as cinnamon, turmeric/curcumin, ginger, dill, basil, parsley
seafood - in particular wild pink salmon and sardines
natural vitamins C and E
These are healthy foods for your dog - with the added bonus of being packed with antioxidants. By feeding an antioxidant-rich diet we support our dog's cells, decrease inflammation and promote good health!
For more reading:
"Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health".
This study and this study from the University of Toronto show cognitive improvement in aging dogs fed an antioxidant fortified food.
*This article is for general information purposes only, applies to healthy dogs, and may not apply to your dog. If you have any concerns about your dog, please consult your holistic veterinarian.