Important ingredients in your dog’s diet
Elevate Your Dog’s Food Beyond Simple Nutrition
Welcome to ‘Ingredients with a Purpose’ – a series of science informed articles on the role the ingredients in your dog’s food plays in achieving their best health and wellbeing at every stage of their precious lives at the same time helping to reduce the environmental impact feeding them has on our precious planet.
We understand there are a LOT of options when it comes to what you feed your dog. We also understand you want to offer them the best food possible, and labels can be confusing. The goal of this series is to give you clear insight into the reason for the inclusion of every ingredient in our super premium food, the role it plays and what is necessary to guarantee you are feeding your dog an all-natural, complete, and balanced, diet.
These are the key elements necessary for positive nutrition.
Carbohydrates – Important Ingredients in Your Dog’s Diet
Carbohydrates are possibly the most misunderstood, and maligned, ingredients in dog food.
While certified Veterinary Nutritionists promote the many benefits of carbohydrates, yet others disparage the inclusion of carbohydrates in dog food pointing to the fact that their ancestors, wolves, obtained most of their energy from protein and fats.
Thankfully dogs evolved alongside us to become ‘man’s’ best friend (wolves not so much!) and in doing so their diet has evolved in a very similar fashion to our own.
We hope to help you in understanding the role various ingredients, and more importantly the nutrients they contain, play in your best friend’s diet, health and wellbeing.
Dogs evolved from wolves between 11,000 and 34,000 years ago, somewhere in Eurasia, though exactly when and how is under debate. The shift from wolf pack member to family pet involved more than just the ability to get along with people, says evolutionary geneticist Erik Axelsson from Uppsala University in Sweden. He and his colleagues compared dog and wolf DNA to learn which genes were important for domestication. (1)
They discovered that there were numerous brain related gene differences, to be expected given the importance of behavioural changes required in the transition to becoming man’ s best friend.
More surprising were genes for digesting starch. Dogs had four to 30 copies of the gene for amylase, a protein that starts the breakdown of starch in the intestine. Wolves have only two copies, one on each chromosome. As a result, that gene was 2800% more active in dogs, and that dogs are five times better than wolves at digesting starch (carbohydrate). (2, 6)
The number of copies of this gene also varies in people: Those eating high carbohydrate diets—such as the Japanese and European Americans—have more copies than people with starch-poor diets, such as the Mbuti in Africa. “We have adapted in a very similar way to the dramatic changes that happened when agriculture was developed,”
Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of another gene, MGAM, which codes for maltase, another enzyme important in starch digestion. But there are four key differences between the sequence in dogs and wolves. One difference causes dogs to produce longer versions of maltase. That longer protein is also seen in herbivores, such as cows and rabbits, and omnivores, such as mouse lemurs and rats, but not in other mammals, suggesting length is important to plant-eaters.
The third gene makes a protein that moves glucose from the gut into the bloodstream. The scientists saw several dog-specific alterations in this gene that suggest the glucose transporter may work more efficiently in dog guts than wolf guts.
These results support the idea that wolves began to associate with humans who were beginning to settle down and farm. Waste dumps provided a ready source of food, albeit not meat, the usual diet. Thus, early dogs that evolved more efficient starch digestion had a survival advantage.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that provide the body energy and help it function (the other two energy-providing macronutrients are fat and protein).
There are three main types of carbohydrates, sugars, starches and fibres.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what you and your dog’s body do with them. Because many foods contain one or more types of carbohydrates, it can be tricky to understand what’s healthy for you and your dog and what’s not.
Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest sugars. Some of these sugars are naturally occurring, such as those in fruits and in milk, while refined or processed sugars are usually added to foods like candies and baked goods, and drinks. These simple carbs are quickly absorbed through the gut and can cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels.
Then there are complex carbohydrates, which are found in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, and contain longer chains of sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates have an additional component — fibre, which is technically a type of carbohydrate, but it’s not digested and absorbed. That not only feeds the good gut bacteria, but it also allows the carbohydrate to be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, so it doesn’t spike glucose levels and insulin levels like a simple carbohydrate does.
This in turn provides your dog with a more consistent level of energy.
Foods that contain simple carbohydrates aren’t necessarily bad — it depends on the food. For instance, fruits contain some simple carbs, but they are drastically different from other foods that contain refined sugar which lack key nutrients both you and your dog’s body need to be healthy.
Complex carbohydrates are considered “good” because of the longer molecules of sugars they are made of, which the body takes longer to break down. That means the glucose will be released at a more consistent rate — instead of peaks and valleys — to keep you and your dog going throughout the day.
Foods with complex carbohydrates also typically have more important nutrients, including fibre and B vitamins, than foods containing more simple carbohydrates.
Simple or complex is one way to classify carbs, but nutritionists now use another concept to help understand carbohydrates – the glycaemic index (GI) of a food indicates how quickly you or your dog’s blood sugar will rise after you eat that food, on a scale of 0 to 100.
Foods with a high GI (higher than 70) are easily digested and cause a quick rise in blood sugar. Foods with a low GI (lower than 55) get digested more slowly and the blood sugar response is flatter.
Knowing the GI for a specific food helps understand how the carbs in that food will affect your blood sugar, but it’s important to point out that it doesn’t necessarily make a food unhealthy or healthy.
Taking this approach one step further, you want to look at the glycaemic load (GL) of a food. The glycaemic load factors in both the glycaemic index and how much carbohydrate is in the food.
A low GL is 10 or less; medium is 11 to 19; and 20 or greater is considered high.
While there has been some debate about the impact of glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) on our dog’s health, most recent research points to it having a very similar impact to that on humans in starch metabolism, glycaemic responses, and methylglyoxal responses. This should not be overly surprising given the current knowledge surrounding health indicators that dog and human share. (3, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Health Benefits of a low GI diet include:
- Reduced insulin levels and insulin resistance.
- Increased HDL cholesterol and reduced LDL cholesterol.
- Protects against cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation.
- Reduced risk of some cancers by reducing insulin levels.
- Lowers abdominal fat (low GI increase insulin sensitivity which allows your dog to burn more fat as a fuel source and process their carbohydrates more efficiently)
With our dogs suffering with weight issues and increasing prevalence of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular issues, a low GI diet is one way in which we can help improve the prospects for their health and longevity. (10, 11, 12)
Bonza’s food has been formulated with specific plant-based ingredients, many often referred to as superfoods, that provide a wide variety of complex carbohydrates selected for their superior nutrient levels, their Glycaemic Index (GI) and Glycaemic Load (GL) levels, and equally importantly their environmental impact. You can see both the Glycaemic Index (GI) and Glycaemic Load (GL) levels table of our superfood ingredients here.
The number one thing we can do for our dogs is giving them food that enables their body and mind to flourish and thrive.
Much like us, the healthier your dog’s lifestyle, the more likely they’ll be able to fight off any disease or infection. Often the food we feed our dogs is not doing them justice. It’s filled with artificial flavours, low-quality protein sources, and not enough fibre.
Bonza is a Veterinary nutritionist developed food that provides a balanced, varied protein, high fibre source of complete nutrition for your dog. Our food offers a blend of complex carbohydrates that provide slow-release energy, aid digestion, help maintain the immune and nervous systems and regulate the metabolism. Together with PhytoPlus®, a proprietary blend of superfoods, super herbs and botanicals, food designed to support your dog living its longest, carefree life all the while reducing the harm to the planet of feeding them.
Bonza. Nose to Tail Good Health.