Is a grain free diet better for your pet
Grain free diets are becoming more and more popular for cats and dogs, but why is this and is it justified that it is so popular?
Why do a lot of owners choose a grain free diet
Most owners choose a grain free diet because they think it's more natural, contains less carbs and is less likely to cause health problems like allergies. However, there is no scientific proof that shows that a grain free diet actually ís better for animals. Also, if we look at the nutritional base for animals, this argument is not supported.
Nutrition, nutrients and ingredients
Nutrition consists nutrients and ingredients. The last two, quite often are mixed up, so therefore first some basic information:
- Nutrition is defined as the right proportion between food and nutrients for a healthy life
- Pets need nutrients to stay healthy
- Ingredients are the ‘’vehicles’’ that provide these nutrients
- A proper intake of nutrients is essential for overall health/development and prevents diseases
- Nutrients have many functions in the metabolism, which are all essential for a normal function of the organs. This can be counteracted by an irregular or insufficient intake
Misconceptions about grains in food for cats and dogs
Owners often encounter wrong information about grains in food for cats and dogs. Hereby the misconceptions we see the most:
“Wholegrains are just filling”
The word filling suggest that the relevant ingredient has limited or no nutritional value at all. However wholegrains contribute to vital nutrients as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids in pet food. Several grain products also provide proteins which are sometimes even better to digest than some proteins we find in meat. More than 90% of all cats and dogs can use and digest the grains, which often found in pet food, perfectly.
“Grain free diets don’t contain carbs”
Grain free diets definitely contain carbs, but it just comes from a different source. Often this source is something like sweet potato, which in fact, contains more carbs than grain. Carbs belong to the 6 basic nutrients and therefore are a very important provider of energy (besides carbs, the other 5 basic nutrients are: water, proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals). Grain free food that has less carbs in it, often contains more fat and calories. Because there are so many different grain free diets, it can cause an imbalance in other very important nutrients. Often, the grain in grain free diets is replaced by highly refined starch (for example potato or cassava). Because of this, there are much less nutrients and fibres in the food if you compare it with a diet that contains wholegrains. In a lot of other grain free foods, the grain is replaced by (for example) beans, peas or lentils. These ingredients do also provide carbs, but are not necessarily better than grains. Also this can lead to an imbalance of the gastrointestinal tract.
“Grains cause food allergies”
Food allergy or food intolerance both are an abnormal reaction of the body to normal food, nutrients or ingredients. Less than 10% of all allergies are related to food and thereby, an allergy to grains is very unusual. The thing in food that causes allergies is almost always an animal protein (for example beef, chicken or dairy).
As long as manufacturers of pet food will continue to make grain free foods (and they will as long as it stays so popular) the misconception that grains are bad will continue to exist as well. We hope, with this information, it’s clear that grain free food is not better for your pets health than food that does contain grains. Every diet should be composed with a good balance of nutrients and not be judged by just one ingredient.