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Fruits and Vegetables For Pets

In human nutrition, there is a phrase about eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, across the color wheel.

There are 5 main colors of fruits and vegetables:

  1. Red
  2. Orange & Yellow
  3. Green
  4. Blue & Purple
  5. White

The following information comes from Steve Brown's Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet.  Steve Brown has developed several commercial dog foods, including the popular Charlee Bear Dog Treats.  Now Steve spends a lot of time advocating for people to add real, fresh food to their dog's kibble diets.  This information likely applies to cats - and people - as well.  Steve Brown's book is fully referenced to medical studies, and is also based on conclusions from the National Research Council.

Feeding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will provide the best defense against cancer, the number one disease killer of dogs.


Cruciferous vegetables (especially broccoli) have the most proven anti-cancer fighting properties.  Many of these nutrients are fat-soluble; you should therefore feed them as part of a meal that contains fat.


For the most micronutrients for your dollar, feed human leftovers such as broccoli stalks and watermelon rinds. The stalk has about the same vitamin and mineral content - and better fats - than the broccoli flower, and is often thrown away.  Watermelon rinds contain citrulline,a newly discovered nutrient that is reported to help the heart, circulation, and immune system.

Based on this information, Iowa Pet Adoptions suggests feeding a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  Some of the foods to avoid are onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and real chocolate.

To clean fruits and vegetables, we put the fruits and vegetables in a bowl containing a small amount of white vinegar, diluted with a large amount of water.  Firm vegetables such as carrots are scrubbed with a wire brush.  The goal of the cleaning is to remove pesticides and possible e coli.  We leave the skins on, as Scott explains their value.

Prior to feeding fruits and vegetables, Steve Brown explains they should be chopped, steamed, or in some cases, lightly cooked:

Your dog won't be able to take full advantage of the nutrients in the vegetables and fruits unless you juice, finely chop using a food processor, or (with some vegetables) lightly cook them.  A rigid cell wall, composed of cellulose, surrounds plant cells.  Cellulose is very difficult for dogs to digest.  It is the content of the cell itself, not the cellulose wall, that provides most of the nutrition.  Unless the cell wall is broken, most of the nutrients are not available.

While this seems complicated, the quick solution is to buy fruits and vegetables on sale, and steam or puree them, and add them to your pet's food.  Feed a little bit of a lot of different things.  A bit of fresh food is both tasty and healthy.

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