Phytonutrients, the pigments that give fresh foods their vibrant hues of red, green, yellow and orange, contain powerful antioxidant properties. Many fruits and vegetables are suitable for dogs to eat, and contain compounds that help provide protection against many ailments and diseases to which domestic canines are prone.
Despite the fact that most phytonutrients are officially considered “non-essential” (most aren’t included in AAFCO nutrient profiles or other references many vets are familiar with), phytochemicals do seem essential for deep-seated good health, well being, immunity – and probably longevity.
Some of the health benefits of phytonutrients in colorful foods include enhanced immune system activity, protection against cancer, support of eye and heart health, improved communication between cells and repair of DNA damage. Antioxidants also help slow down the signs of aging by cleaning up the by-products of oxidation within the body’s cells.
The powerful health properties of phytonutrients are thought to play an especially important role in cancer prevention. While the majority of the research is being done on humans, it’s likely most of the benefits being demonstrated also apply to animals, including domesticated pets.
Researchers have identified hundreds of different phytonutrients. Some of the best known are carotenoids (such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and Zeaxanthin) and flavonoids (such as isoflavones, anthocyanins and flavones).