A healthy, gluten-free option for dogs
Did you know that quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd) is a seed of a plant and not of a grass, so while we refer to quinoa as a grain, it is actually a pseudo-grain that is also gluten-free! Packed with vitamins, minerals and protein, quinoa has been growing in popularity for humans as a healthy alternative to rice and other grains.
Can dogs eat quinoa, too?
Yes! Although Quinoa is not technically a grain in the traditional sense, it is still classified as a protein-rich whole grain option for dogs that’s also high in healthy carbohydrates and fibre. Read on to learn more about the benefits of quinoa for dogs, and why we’ve featured it in our Beef & Broccoli recipe that dogs love.
Benefits of Quinoa for Dogs
1. Carbohydrate and Fibre Source
Quinoa is well-known as a healthy carbohydrate source. What makes a carbohydrate source healthy? The type of carbohydrates (and its additional nutrients)!
Carbohydrates can be classified as simple or complex carbohydrates. When looking for a healthy carbohydrate source for your dog, look for one with a high level of complex carbohydrates, such as starch and fibre, compared to simple - though this is not to say that there are no benefits to simple carbohydrates as they provide a quick and easy to use energy source for your pups!
In general, quinoa contains more complex carbohydrates than many other grains often used in pet foods. The starches provide an excellent source of energy and can provide benefits for gut health. Although fibre is indigestible, they are an excellent source of fuel for the good bacteria in the gut, and a healthy gut = a healthy pup!
To learn more about fibres, read our blog post about Dietary Fibre for Your Pets.
2. Gluten-Free Grain
Gluten is an umbrella term for a variety of proteins called prolamins that are found in many grain sources (i.e. wheat and barley). These proteins are often resistant to digestive enzymes and therefore cannot be completely broken down. For some, but not all, pups, the incomplete digestion of these proteins can result in an immune response, which will cause allergy-like symptoms.
A gluten-free grain provides a healthy carbohydrate source for dogs who are gluten sensitive, or have intolerances to gluten, or for pet owners who simply want to opt for gluten-free diets for their pups.
3. High in Protein
Did you know that quinoa is considered a complete protein because it provides all the essential amino acids? Quinoa is especially high in lysine, methionine, and histidine – amino acids that are often low in other grains such as wheat and rice.
Oftentimes, we tend to group ingredients based on its major macronutrient, such as chicken as a protein and quinoa as a carbohydrate. And while quinoa is an excellent source of carbohydrates, in naming it as such we negate its many other components!
Quinoa can therefore be incorporated into your pup’s diet as both a carbohydrate and protein source, though it is recommended to pair quinoa with other proteins to ensure a rich variety of amino acids in the diet.
4. Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
The health benefits of ingredients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are numerous, including but not limited to:
- Reduced cancer risk
- Healthy weight loss
- Prevention for joint pain and osteoarthritis
- Skin and coat quality
- Reducing symptoms of allergies
Quinoa is documented to contain many polyphenols and anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found only in plants, which results in its high antioxidant capacity.
You can learn more about antioxidants here: Why Does my Pet Need Antioxidants?
Grains can often be low in certain vitamins and minerals, however, quinoa is quite the opposite! Quinoa is a good source of many vitamins and minerals such as:
a) Folate: A B-vitamin important for red blood cells and cellular growth
b) Vitamin E: An essential vitamin that functions as an antioxidant
c) Copper: Aids iron absorption and is involved in maintaining healthy blood vessels, red blood cells, nerves, and immune response
d) Zinc: Important for the immune system!
e) Manganese: Involved in the formation of connective tissue and bones, metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, and for hormones and brain function
Overall, quinoa is regarded as a functional food that provides many benefits for our pups.
To incorporate quinoa in your pup’s diet, try our Beef & Broccoli recipe.
Written by: Hannah Godfrey
BSc.H. | MSc. Animal Nutrition
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