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Phytonutrients (the pigments that give fresh foods their vibrant hues of red, green, purple, yellow and orange) do more than just make a pretty meal. They contain powerful antioxidant properties that can have a profound effect on total health.

While it’s true that some produce enjoyed by humans isn’t necessarily biologically appropriate (or even safe, in some cases) for canines, many fruits and vegetables are suitable for dogs to eat, and contain compounds that can help to provide protection against many of the ailments and diseases to which domestic dogs are prone. It’s fair to say that as research continues, more and more health benefits are likely to be uncovered and the list of species shown to benefit from them will increase too.

Benefits of Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, have been shown to aid in protecting plants from environmental challenges and form part of a plant’s ‘immune system’. They help to protect plants from disease, insects, drought, excessive heat, ultraviolet rays, and poisons or pollutants in the air and soil.

Despite the fact that most phytonutrients are officially considered ‘non-essential nutrients,’ and their consumption isn’t essential for survival (most of them certainly aren’t included in the AAFCO nutrient profiles or other references that many vets and pet owners are familiar with), phytonutrients do seem to be essential for deep-seated good health, wellbeing, immunity - and probably, longevity. Some of the health benefits of consuming the phytonutrients contained in colorful foods, include enhancing immune system activity, protecting against cancer, supporting eye and heart health, improving communication between cells and repairing DNA damage. Antioxidants also help to slow down the signs of aging by cleaning up the by-products of oxidation which takes place within the body’s cells.

Phytonutrient Research

The study of phytonutrients is one of the most exciting areas of nutritional research being undertaken today, and is extending our knowledge of the health benefits of food, far beyond the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we’ve studied historically. Some of the best-known phytonutrients are carotenoids (such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and Zeaxanthin) and flavonoids (such as isoflavones, anthocyanins and flavones).

Read more at The Honest Kitchen blog.
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