What are superfoods? They are the foods that contain high amounts of nutrients known to have health benefits. They help prevent several chronic diseases and protect the body by energizing the immune system. Diet impacts the body in the short, medium and long term, which is why it’s so important to ensure that we are giving our dogs all the nutrients they need to live healthy longer. Research has shown that the vitamins and minerals in superfoods can not only prevent disease, such as cancer, but also play a role in healing. After all, as Hippocrates said, it is nature that heals the sick!
Nutritional deficiencies prevent the immune system and the body from defending itself against environmental attacks, including those from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron that are found almost everywhere in water, air and food. Because they are deprived, they steal the electron of a neighbouring molecule, which in turn seizes that of another, and so on. This chain reaction can upset thousands of molecules and, within a cell, cause considerable damage such as mutation, damaged membranes, damaged DNA, and cell death. It is a key factor in the onset of chronic degenerative diseases. However, as soon as free radicals come into contact with antioxidants, the chain reaction stops. Fortunately for us, antioxidants are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially in superfoods.
How do they work?
Superfoods are generally loaded with antioxidants. These are molecules that slow down the oxidation caused by the presence of too many free radicals. The balance between oxidants (which break down cells to produce energy) and antioxidants (which stimulate cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms) is crucial for the proper functioning of the body. There are different types of oxidants which, to be neutralized, require certain types of antioxidants. In fact, there are many antioxidants, and each one has its specificity. In addition, they often act in synergy, hence the importance of offering a wide variety to our dogs. Superfoods, veritable capturers of free electrons, can contain a range of antioxidant properties such as vitamins E, C, Q10 (ubiquinol) as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids.
All fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which is the substance that gives them colour and aroma. These molecules are able to fight or prevent diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some of the better-known phytonutrients include ascorbic acid and beta-carotene, plant forms of vitamins C and A. Did you know that alpha-carotene (from the same family of carotenoids as beta-carotene) is reportedly 10 times more effective than beta-carotene in slowing certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease? It is found in pumpkins and carrots, among others. Remember that a good number of phytochemicals have antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Finally, essential fatty acids can produce and repair cell membranes. They also regulate blood pressure, protect against heart disease, osteoarthritis and kidney failure, and strengthen the immune system. They can also have an anti-inflammatory effect. And since they cannot be produced by the body, it’s essential to obtain them from the diet. These are alpha-Linolenic acid (an omega-3) and linoleic acid (an omega-6).
Now that we understand how they work on the body a little better, here is a short list of the most beneficial superfoods for your dog's health.
Algae draw an incredible variety of minerals from the sea, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc. They are an important source of fibre - which differ from terrestrial fibres - and vitamin B12, which promotes cell and nervous system health. Spirulina is an alga that has existed for 3 billion years, and is full of carotenoids and beta-carotene. It’s an antioxidant, anti-diabetic and immunostimulant; it’s also a good source of iron, gamma-Linolenic acid (omega-6) and phycocyanin.
If we had to keep just one superfood, it would definitely be moringa. It is full of phytochemicals, contains more than 90 nutrients, more than 40 antioxidants and all the essential amino acids. If it takes variety to fight against cell degeneration and chronic diseases, well, here it is! Here are some facts that illustrate why moringa is an exceptional food that keeps us and our pets healthy.
- 17 time more calcium than milk
- 15 time more potassium than bananas
- 25 time more iron than spinach
- 9 time more protein than yogurt
- 12 time more vitamin C than oranges
- 10 time more vitamin A than carrots
And that's not all; moringa is packed with minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron and copper. It is rich in vitamins C, E and B, beta-carotene (provitamin A) and fibre. And it contains a large amount of phytochemicals such as flavonoids (anticancer properties), tannins (antimicrobial, antifungal), saponins (anti inflammatory, anti rheumatic), terpenes and sterols. And these are just a few components; the list is too long to replicate here.
Let us simply remember that moringa has anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties; it improves brain health, prevents kidney dysfunction, decreases gastric acidity, prevents ulcers, strengthens the immune system, regulates blood pressure and promotes muscle relaxation. It is the king of superfoods, the superstar, the magic potion: its many qualities have earned it all kinds of well-deserved nicknames.
Hempseed never ceases to surprise us. In addition to being rich in fibre, it contains complete proteins - that is to say the nine essential amino acids, minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesiumand an entire range of vitamins like (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, and vitamin E. Another interesting fact is that hempseed has the perfect fatty acid ratio and contains no saturated fat, making it a perfect superfood for cardiovascular health.
Flaxseed contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which aid digestion and help maintain healthy skin and coat. They are also rich in fibre, antioxidants and lignans, phytoestrogens that lower blood sugar and blood pressure, and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Rich in vitamin C, cranberry is a fruit supporting healthy cognitive functions in addition to preventing urinary tract infections. They contain several types of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, flavonols and proanthocyanidins. They reduce inflammation, stimulate good cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.