This article was published in March 2017 in Especies PRO magazin
Nature provides us with all the necessary elements for our daily diet to cover all our physiological needs and we can enjoy a long and healthy life. Our ability to decide which ingredients are included in a recipe, affects the balance between these elements and how healthy our diet will be as a result.
We are increasingly worried about our food and which products we should include in our shopping list to make sure our diet is healthy. This concern also affects what we feed our dogs and cats, as they are also part of our family and we also question the suitability of their food. In the end, both for them and for us, to cover our needs with adequate food will result in better long-term health.
A diet with natural ingredients that takes into account the interaction between them, the nutrient balance of each one and the preservation of all its nutritional properties when cooking, results in a healthier, safer and tastier diet.
Dogs and cats as we know them today, have lived among us for thousands of years. Throughout all this time, they have undergone an evolution in their behavior, going from being initially food trackers and hunters, then herders, used for work, defense or pest control, to becoming pets, assistants to the disabled, search and rescue aids, narcotics and explosives detectors, etc. Their great capacity to adapt throughout history shows us that artificial selection has caused this evolution and also explains the reason why their feeding needs have changed. The current genetic difference between dogs and wolves has been proved, identifying two groups of genes, one involved in brain development and behavior and another group related to their ability to digest carbohydrates.
As a consequence, the food dogs eat today can not be the same as that of their ancestors, not only because they are no longer wolves, but because their nutritional needs are not the same as those of a hunter, herder, or defender.
At the other extreme, we can’t accept either that the level of anthropomorphism we have attributed to them results in a diet that is the same as our own, since the high incidence of overweight and obesity just prove that they are already too similar to humans in that regard.
So, what is the most appropriate food?
The answer is very simple and complex at the same time. The one that is healthier.
Natural ingredients, with the least processing and as fresh as possible, to keep their nutritional properties intact, is a fundamental starting point.
Meat and fish provide all the amino acids and essential fatty acids, as well as the micronutrients needed for the functioning of the metabolism. In addition, eliminating byproducts (peaks, feathers, intestines, etc.) ensures that these protein sources are much more digestible and do not result in an excess of minerals that can affect their health adversely.
Fruits and vegetables provide indispensable micro-ingredients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) as well as fibers, on the one hand soluble fibers that feed the intestinal flora and allow to increase the intestinal absorption of nutrients and improve the immune’s system response, and on the other hand, insoluble fiber that guarantees a correct intestinal transit. In addition, there are certain plant ingredients that provide very high nutritional value, even when added in small proportion, thanks to the antioxidants they provide that help to fight against oxidative stress, cellular aging and support the immune system in its important defensive tasks.
Cereals are a good source of carbohydrates and their inclusion in the recipe results in a balanced diet thanks to the energy they provide, but their natural source must be taken into account. At one extreme, the excess of refined flours which practically only provide carbohydrates, causes an excessively fast assimilation. At the other extreme, the abuse of whole grains results in a supply of insoluble fiber that can prevent the proper absorption of nutrients at the intestinal level, as well as a risk of providing toxins if the cereals are not the right quality.
Legumes are a very interesting option, since they supply slow digestion carbohydrates, while also contributing a great part of the essential amino acids for dogs and cats, in addition to fiber, both soluble and insoluble. The nature of the carbohydrates supplied by legumes has demonstrable benefits compared to those provided by cereals. There is a lot of research in this field and some has already shown that the inclusion of peas in a diet improves metabolic health compared to diets with only cereals.
A NATURAL RECIPE
The combination of these ingredients should be done in coherence with the nutritional needs and with the aim of providing each nutrient in the appropriate proportions so the organism can carry out all its functions in a healthy way. For this reason the recipe must also be naturally coherent. On the one hand, combining several sources of protein ensures a correct supply of amino acids and essential fatty acids from natural sources, and on the other hand the inclusion of several sources of carbohydrates in limited quantity provides an optimal balance to the recipe. Taking into account the interaction of each of the ingredients, whether they are majority or are included in very low quantities, will result in a healthier nutrition.
A holistic approach to food not only takes into account that the combination of ingredients is optimal to achieve the fundamental goal of providing nutrients, but also takes into account the interaction between them and how they act at different levels so the organism can benefit from synergies and can enjoy a good health maximized by having a greater metabolic balance. For example, the synergistic action between some natural antioxidants and unsaturated fats, with a high intake of omega 3, results in a greater natural anti-inflammatory effect and greater benefits for their joints when it is combined with chondroprotectors.
SLOW TASTES BETTER
The cooking of these ingredients should be a closely monitored process, ensuring that all qualities of the natural ingredients are transferred to the finished food. Steam cooking and extrusion are two systems that combined ensure a proper cooking of all ingredients, but if time and temperature are not controlled, undesirable reactions may occur.
The denaturation of proteins and their loss of biological value, some Maillard reactions that generate indigestible compounds, inactivation of enzymes that would have facilitated digestion, or the destruction of natural antioxidants with multiple beneficial effects are some of the undesirable effects that occur as a result of excessive cooking or speed, but they are also all too common when the manufacturing process is set up as an industrial process, rather than a cooking method.
In addition, something as traditional as low temperature cooking, allows us to preserve the nutritional potential of the ingredients, but also to maintain all the flavor resulting in very appetizing food without using artificial flavorings.
YOU WON'T EAT IT ALL TODAY
We always want to have our pantry full of foods that keep their smell, taste, texture and nutritional properties as if they were freshly harvested. The convenience we demand from food and its packaging and its journey of kilometers on the road to their expiry date often has a high cost: artificial chemical preservatives.
An apple gives us a very good example of how nature devised a way to provide nutrients in an unbeatable packaging. If we do not damage the skin, we have all the nutrients available until the moment we decide to take a bite. From then on, if we forget while we are eating it, we will see how it becomes brown and unappetizing due to the oxidation that causes its deterioration and loss of all that nutritional potential that was well kept, until it fell into our hands.
The conservation of natural food imitates the processes that occur in nature to preserve food. Dried foods with low humidity mimic the strategy of nuts, thus minimizing the risk of fungal and bacterial attacks. A waterproof and airtight container, more resistant than apple skin, is the best solution to prevent air and insects to spoil the food.
The natural antioxidants are more than enough to preserve food once cooked. Vitamin E from olive oil is a good proof of this. If air and direct sunlight are avoided, thanks to the large amount of vitamin E naturally contained in olive oil, the food is preserved because it prevents the oxidation of the fat that would cause it to become rancid and harmful to the body. In addition, the intake of this powerful antioxidant also has beneficial effects for the body, so it avoids the oxidation of the food and also of the cells that form our body and our pets’.
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT
Natural food is one of the best options if you want to provide a healthy life, as it is extremely beneficial to health.
Foods with processed ingredients add unhealthy additives and fat to enhance flavor and use cheaper ingredients to improve product profitability, reducing nutritional quality. By adding chemicals and preservatives to make the product last longer, the chemical balance of the body is negatively affected.
We are what we eat. Literally. Because every cell in the body is formed and regenerated based on the food that is ingested while millions of cells are lost and a lot of other cells are created.
What do you want your pet to be made of?
Xavier Miranda Arnau
Technical Director of Gosbi Pet Food S.A.