Fava Beans In Dog Food. Healthy or Not?
The question “Can My Dog Eat Fava Beans?” often generates a whirlwind of conflicting information. Fava beans, or broad beans, known scientifically as Vicia faba, are part of the larger family of Fabaceae, sharing the stage with various agricultural staples like soybeans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, and more. This family is renowned in agricultural circles as climate smart foods, and has a rich variety of species.
A key concern surrounding plant-based foods, fava beans included, is the presence of what are known as ‘anti-nutritional’ elements. Typically present in grains, beans, legumes, and nuts, antinutrients can also be encountered in different parts of various plant species, including leaves, roots, and fruits. Among these, phytates, tannins, lectins, oxalates stand out as the usual suspects. However, the impact of these antinutrients is negligible unless your diet is exclusively raw plant-based.
It’s not unusual to find antinutrients in foods like legumes, grains, pseudo-grains, nuts, seeds, tubers, and nightshades. While this might seem alarming, particularly for individuals adhering to a plant-heavy diet, such as vegetarians and vegans, it’s crucial to remember that not all plant-derived foods are health hazards. In fact, the reverse is often true!
Interestingly, many antinutrients are not without their merits. For instance, phenolics, powerful phytonutrients, present in these foods are known for their antioxidant properties, along with potential chemopreventive and anticarcinogenic benefits.
Diving back into the world of fava beans and dogs, it’s important to note that antinutrients are primarily located in the hulls of legumes, which is why our plant-based dog food utilises dehulled fava beans.
Misconceptions often arise concerning fava beans’ health effects, especially regarding phytohemagglutinin (PHA), a type of lectin found in legumes that can be problematic in large quantities. However, processes like thermal treatment eliminate PHA and other substances, such as vicine and tannins, much like cooking destroys harmful bacteria in meat when done correctly. (1)
Our recipes contain a small 3.5% dehulled fava beans, a stark contrast to the 10%, 20%, or 30% ratios that research from 2020 has shown to be digestible for dogs.
Another misconception about fava beans involves favism, a blood disorder linked to the condensed tannins in fava beans’ seed coats. However, there’s no evidence of dogs suffering from favism; it’s a condition affecting individuals with G6PD deficiency, usually triggered by consuming fava beans or coming into contact with their pollen.
One study titled ‘Use of low-temperature extrusion for reducing phytohemagglutinin activity (PHA) and oligosaccharides ..‘ established that low-temp extrusion is an effective process in negating lectins and cutting down on oligosaccharides. Furthermore, research from 2020 affirmed that processed fava beans are a secure ingredient for dog food. (2)
The most recent studies on fava beans, particularly in the context of high-protein, meat-centric diets, determined that fava bean–focused diets didn’t induce haemolytic anaemia or affect glucose processing in dogs, marking them as safe for canine consumption. Conversely, high-protein, grain-free diets did show negative alterations in blood chemistry. (3)
At Bonza, we prioritise your dog’s health, which is why our recipes feature dehulled fava beans at a conservative 3.5% inclusion ratio. These beans undergo a cold extrusion cooking process to minimise antinutrient content while preserving the essential, health-boosting nutrients your dog needs.
Fava Beans in Dog Food: Unlocking the Health Bonanza
The incorporation of fava beans in your dog’s diet isn’t just a safe practice; it’s potentially laden with health benefits. Regular consumption of these legumes can have positive implications for symptoms of conditions like Parkinson’s disease (reflected in dogs as Degenerative Myelopathy), contribute to birth defect prevention, bolster the immune system, facilitate weight management, and assist in regulating cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
In his 2008 seminal work, ‘The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,’ Dan Buettner revealed that among the world’s centenarians, the daily consumption of legumes was common. They were the cornerstone of the diets of the longest-living individuals.
Legumes, including fava beans, are heralded for their eco-friendly attributes. They enrich the soil with nitrogen, reducing dependence on synthetic fertilisers, and demand fewer resources like water and energy, all while providing nutritious, bio-available proteins.
Why Fava Beans Deserve a Spot in Your Dog’s Bowl:
- Nutrient Powerhouses: Fava beans are brimming with soluble fibre, protein, folate, manganese, copper, and other essential micronutrients.
- Potential Neurological Benefits: Rich in L-dopa, a precursor to dopamine, fava beans might alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (in dogs, Degenerative Myelopathy), although further study is warranted. (4, 5, 6, 7)
- Birth Defect Prevention: High in folate, they’re crucial for neural development, reducing birth defects in humans and potentially impacting similar canine conditions. (3 ,8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- Immunity Boosters: Their compounds could enhance antioxidant activity and, by extension, immunity, though more research is necessary. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)
- Supports Bone Health: With ample manganese and copper, fava beans might strengthen bones. (18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23)
- Combatting Anaemia: They could elevate iron levels in the blood, countering anaemia. (24, 25, 26, 27, 28)
- Regulating Blood Pressure: Rich in magnesium and potassium, they may help lower blood pressure. (31,32, 33, 34, 35)
- Aiding in Weight Management: Their high protein and fibre content can contribute to weight loss by reducing overall calorie intake. (36, 37, 38, 39)
- Cholesterol Reduction: Soluble fibre in fava beans can help decrease cholesterol and manage hyperlipidaemia. (1, 40, 41, 42)
- Promoting Agricultural Biodiversity: Their cultivation enhances agro-biodiversity and climate change resilience. (31, 32)
- Climate Change Warriors: They support ecological balance and biodiversity. (31, 32)
- Champions of Food Security: As a valuable protein source with minimal waste, they’re crucial for global food security. (33)
In conclusion, while fava beans are sometimes ensnared in controversy regarding their nutritional contents, their benefits are undeniable. They’re not only safe when properly prepared but also a nutritional powerhouse that can support your dog’s health in numerous ways.
At Bonza, we take these advantages to heart, ensuring our products are formulated to offer your pets the very best of what fava beans have to offer nutritionally.
As an eco-friendly dog food it is very important to us that all our ingredients not only deliver the very best nutrients to support your dog’s health but also that our food is produced with the lightest impact on the environment. For this reason our vegan dog food does not include corn, wheat, rice or soy.
In answer to the question ‘Can I feed my dog Fava beans?’, the definitive answer is ‘Yes’, they are an highly nutritious and planet-friendly food.