The Great Grain-Free Diet Debate, Part 1

The Great Grain-Free Diet Debate, Part 1

To grain or not to grain? That is the question. There are die-hard advocates of grain free diets for pets, while others are firm believers that grains are great for pets. With so much information available to pet parents, it can be overwhelming to sort through it all and make an informed decision. In part one of our series, we outline some of the basics to help you make the best decision for your pet.

What exactly is grain?

Let's establish some definitions: Grains are seeds from grasses that contain high amounts of carbohydrates, small amounts of protein and other nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals. Ingredients that qualify as grains include wheat, rice, oats, and even dried corn. Ingredients that do not qualify as grains (and thus, can be included in foods marketed as 'grain-free') include white and sweet potatoes, peas, legumes, tapioca, and others.

The Pros: Why Grains Could Be Good

Grains are included in dog food for a number of reasons:
  • First of all, kibble needs something to bind it together. kibble
  • There are also many nutritional benefits that come from grains:
    • Whole grains provide a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins.
    • Grains like oatmeal can provide soluble fiber that may ease bowel irregularities and contribute to colon health in senior dogs.
  • Additionally, quality grains in small amounts can be a great source of energy.

The Cons: Why Grains Could Be Evil

Dog Ancestral DietsWhen a grain is refined, the bran and germ are removed, taking with it the majority of nutrients and leaving behind mostly carbs. Just like white flour, these heavily processed, refined grains found in low-quality dog foods are not regarded as healthy. Grain free diet proponents also argue that a diet without grains more closely resembles that of their wolf ancestors, the dog’s closest relative with whom they share most of their genetic makeup. This theory has merit. But, be wary of the many low quality grain free kibbles that substitute other high-glycemic carb binders like tapioca, which is no more natural for dogs than grains. Ultimately, be on your guard against any food whose ingredient lists high-glycemic carbohydrates-- whether grains or potatoes-- before whole animal proteins like beef or fish.  

So, are grains good or evil?

The answer depends on your pet, his breed, and his health history. More answers in Part 2 of The Great Grain Debate later this week... Questions or lessons from personal experience? Share in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

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