Did you know the heart’s preferred source of energy is FAT? Did you know FAT has a 2:1 ratio of energy compared to carbohydrates? Did you know of the protective qualities of FAT for the brain? I for sure didn’t until I learned about nutrition. Everything I “knew” about food completely contradicted this “new” information. Even doctors believe FAT is bad and patients should eat low fat. The Western Diet has dictated the predominance of carbohydrates over fat for us and for our pets. I’ve not done extensive research, but I can only assume the food industry which helped propelled this type of dietary requirements forward even though our collective bodies have not evolved to process this type of diet.
Ok, so this blog is about pets, but nutrition has long been studied on humans and extrapolated to other mammals such as our pets and then back again. I can’t stress enough how interconnected we are with our pets and much of our diet choices can also benefit them. I initially talked about water and how our bodies (humans, dogs and cats) are all made up of 70% water. Water is vital in maintaining our life and its the catalyst for our daily bodily processes. So, now let’s take a look at fat.
First, not all fat is the same nor should it be treated the same. Some fats are more preferred in certain circumstances while other types of fat should be avoided all together. I’ll get Trans Fats out of the way. This a main type of fat which should be avoided. Its a manufactured fat and one that is terrible for our health. Trans Fats are found in processed foods like store bought pastries, cookies and even margarine. Their changed state allows them to be softer and spreadable. Take margarine for example, you can buy a tub of it and immediately take it out of the refrigerator and spread it on bread or butter a baking dish or easily blend it into dough for cookies because its normal state of a fat is changed so that it remains soft regardless of the temperature. This is not normal. Trans Fats are altered polyunsaturate fats which the body cannot normally process and digest. When we or our pets eat food which is further removed from what is naturally found in nature, our collective bodies cannot tolerate it and therefore, disease can develop.
Now, you’re wondering, how is any fat is good? As I mentioned earlier, the body of a person, dog or cat not only requires fat, but prefers fat for an energy source. Since the body is only able to use one form of an energy source, the introduction of carbohydrates provides an easier method to use, but not the best method. The body can produce its own carbohydrates, so, when we eat too many carbohydrates, what is not used up is stored as fat. Essentially, the extra carbohydrate we and our pets eat are essentially being stored as fat. I’m not demonizing all sources of carbohydrates because there are naturally occurring foods which not only offer carbohydrates, but vitamins and dietary fiber which is also necessary for our longevity like fruits and vegetables. The focus is on the refined carbohydrate which doesn’t offer any health benefits like white bread or pasta or sugary snacks and drinks. The same goes for our pet foods. Many of the pet foods are produced with low quality ingredients and list such things as corn and corn meal at the top of their ingredient list. Corn, which is also used in producing high fructose corn syrup (the main ingredient in many of the manufactured carbohydrates) can lead to inflammation within the human and animal body. Science has connected chronic inflammation to a main cause of degenerative disease such as cancer.
Other types of fats and oils are better nutritional source of energy and enhances our food. Fats, like those found in fish oil contains Omega 3’s which is an Essential Fatty Acid can help reduce inflammation and help provide other nutritional requirements since this is something our bodies cannot produce and us and our pets MUST receive in our diets. Fat helps maintain the structure of nerve cells and the brain. A depletion of fat in our diet and more importantly, a lack of Omega 3’s can lead to Alzheimer’s, dementia and MS. Mammalian bodies require sufficient fat in our diets in order for the absorption of vitamins like vitamins A, D, K and E. Pet MD Dog Nutrition gives further insight into oils and fats which provide health benefits to our dogs.
When considering how and what fats to use and when, make sure you consider the smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature limit of how that oil can get for it before it burns. Oils are mostly unsaturated fats and since they are an unsaturated fat, they are more reactive to things such as light and heat. Different oils have different smoke points and once an oil begins to burn and if a person or animal ingests the foods cooked in the burned oil, this can have carcinogenic effects on the body. Check out Serious Eats.com-Cooking Fats 101. This post further discusses how to use fat properly.
The main idea of deciding on which foods to eat and what to feed our pets is to eat as close to the ground as possible. This essentially means eating foods which have zero to minimal processing as a way in ensuring its still in its natural state. As for our pets, like our dogs and cats, do your research and find out if a certain food is OK for them. I know grapes and onions are not healthy for dogs, so these should be avoided. There are other exceptions, especially in the case of a sick or a developing animal. I also know feeding RAW can be costly. If you’re looking for a quality kibble, ensure its grain and corn free. Also check the pet food ingredient list for the listing of proteins. An animal by-product is a better source of protein than animal meal. We are what we eat, so make it good!!