Eating a variety of whole grains is an important part of a balanced natural pet food diet that offers numerous health benefits. Whole grains are a low-fat source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, plant protein, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, whole grains are among the most nutrient-rich plant foods on the planet.
As a fiber source, whole grains are almost unrivaled. Rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, whole grains are crucial for healthy intestinal function. Insoluble fiber has been linked to protection against colon cancer, as well as constipation and hemorrhoids. Soluble fiber can help to lower blood cholesterol and help stabilize blood glucose levels. Whole grains are also helpful with the common problems of constipation and anal gland issues in dogs and cats -- which sometimes can be caused by poor-quality nutrition that is void of dietary fiber.
Grains are an excellent source of many antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals, including vitamin E, selenium, and zinc. In combination with phenolic acids, phytic acid, and tococtrienols, whole grains possess a wide and unique combination of antioxidants that work to keep free radicals in check. Antioxidants work together to protect our cells from oxidative damage. Phytochemicals are the components that give whole grains their color and flavor. While research is relatively new, there are many exciting indicators that phytochemicals may play a role in the prevention of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease. In fact lignans (a phytoestrogen) has been shown to slow cancer in animals! In America whole grains are the most widely consumed source of phytoestrogens.Whole grains provide an entire package of vital substances that work together to promote overall health.
There has been an astounding connection between whole grains and the possible prevention of many types of chronic illnesses including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and digestive disorders.Studies show that regular consumption of whole grains causes a 10% to 60% reduction in the risk of certain cancers, especially of the stomach and colon -- and whole grains are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They also help regulate blood sugar by slowing down the conversion of complex caborhydrates into sugar. In Italy, a study between the years of 1983-1996 found a connection between the consumption of whole grains and a reduced risk in several types of cancer.
In Iowa, a study of over 34,000 women from the ages of 55-69 showed that those who consumed whole grain foods on a daily basis had a 30 percent lower rate of heart disease then women who only consumed whole grains once a week or less. In a separate 10-year study of over 68,000 healthy women between the ages of 37-64, the group of women that consumed the highest amount of whole grains also reported the lowest rate of heart disease. Whole grain fiber has also been linked to a reduced risk for type-2, or adult onset diabetes. In a 6-year study of over 65,000 women between the ages of 40 to 65, the women that consumed the lowest amount of whole grain cereal fiber had a 2 1/2 times greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Similar results were shown for a group of over 42,000 men over the same 6-year period. And these studies are only the beginning.
So why do people refer to grains in commercial pet foods as “filler”? One thing to keep in mind is that there is a profound difference between whole grains, like those found in our natural cat food and natural dog food, and refined grains. It is in the processing that crucial nutrients are lost. There are over twenty vitamins and minerals that are removed during the refining process. The protein, fiber, and phytochemicals are all lost. Take it one step further with our pets. When companies start with grain by-products that are void of any beneficial nutrients, and then cook, process, and preserve them on top of that -- it’s no wonder some pets have trouble digesting them and people think of them as fillers. However, fresh, whole grains provide wonderful nutrition that pets thrive on. And founders of the holistic veterinary movement like Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Juliette DeBairclay-Levy have always used whole grains as an important part of their raw dog food diets. These are diets that have been time-tested for decades -- therefore confirming the long-term positive results. The bottom line is that whole grains are a wonderful addition to a balanced, biologically-appropriate diet.