health and longevity with the raw food diet…

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    Grain & Legumes
    Carbohydrates in the diet, a good addition?

    A small amount of grain and legumes in the cat and dog diet can have huge health benefits. They certainly add variety, they’re inexpensive (even the organic ones) and together they provide an impressive range of nutrients.

    According to some holistic vets and animal nutritionists grains and legumes should be fed together as they compensate for each others missing essential nutrients. Whilst grains lack the amino acid Lysine, legumes compensate for this deficit. Lysine (and Vitamin D) is required to ensure calcium is absorbed through the gut into the blood. Lysine is essential in the formation of collagen, the major component in bone, cartilage, connective tissue and skin. Lysine is also known to assist the immune system in times of stress and sickness.

    In comparison to legumes, grains contain a high amount of phosphorus, which is unfortunately not balanced by their low calcium content. However, Legumes being high in Calcium, compensates for the lack in grains.
    The ratio of calcium to phosphorus required for dogs is between 1.2 and 1.4 parts calcium; to 1 part phosphorus, whereas cats require a ratio of 1:1 for optimal health. (Pitcairn 2005)
    Puppies in particular suffer from bone and growth problems if there is a lack of calcium in the diet. This is another reason to include raw meaty bones in the diet, as they are the best source of balanced calcium and phosphorus. (Billinghurst 1993)

    Unfortunately commercial pet foods appear to be the worst at balancing calcium and phosphorus levels. Dog foods in Australia continue to exceed the required phosphorus amount, which in the long term causes stress on the kidneys. Whilst excess synthetically produced calcium, also found in many popular brands of commercial pet food, can also be detrimental to our pet’s health.
    Too much calcium prevents the absorption of other minerals such as iron copper and zinc. It can also cause painful bloat due to triggering the over production of gastrin. Too much gastrin in the gut will prevent gases escaping from both ends of the digestive tract. (Billinghurst 1993)

    Methionine, an essential amino acid found in grains is lacking in legumes. It is required for the break down of fats, detoxifying the liver; it is a powerful antioxidant, a treatment for depression, a component in muscle building and is a good pain reliever from arthritis (Dr Mercola website).
    The types of grains and legumes, which can be added to the cat, dog and our own diet, are:

    Type of Grain
    Basic Nutritional Information

    Low protein, high carbohydrate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, potassium
    rolled oats
    Low in fat, moderate protein
    A complete protein
    Wholewheat pasta is high in very carbohydrate, moderate protein (5:1),
    Rice (brown)
    Moderate protein, high carbohydrate, high in minerals, vitamins
    Couscous (whole wheat)
    High in protein
    Moderate protein, high in carbohydrates, good source of vitamin C, iron and calcium, high in phosphorus

    Types of Legumes
    Basic Nutritional Information
    Moderate protein (my cats really enjoy the jars of pureed peas and brown rice human baby food)
    A quick cooking legume, no pre soaking required before cooking, moderate protein
    A good source of calcium, high in protein, however can cause excessive gas formation (Schenck 2010)
    kidney bean
    Moderate protein, must be pre-soaked before cooking
    tofu (beancurd)
    High in protein (made from soybean)

    All of the above need to be cooked so that cell walls and fibres are broken down making the nutrients easier to digest and absorb. Cooking or pre-soaking grains and legumes gets them into their pre-digested state that is similar to what is found in the gut of a prey herbivore. (Pitcairn 2005)

    Importantly, grains and legumes together balance phosphorus and calcium. This balance is important to cats and dogs as a disharmony between the two nutrients can cause an array of skeletal and other health problems.

    Unfortunately, grains are massively abused and overused in the pet food industry as a cheap protein filler. The low quality sources of grain usually contain high levels of carcinogens, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. (Martin 2008) Corn, a very popular grain in pet food is used in a variety of forms including corn meal, gluten meal, ground corn, and yellow corn. When components of the same source are split like this on packages ‘nutritional information,’ its impossible to know what is the main component in the pet food. Most people would think that animal produce is the prime ingredient, however it looks like cheap grain sources are more than likely the main filler. (Martin 2001)

    According to the creators of, there is a high correlation between grain feeding and degenerative diseases. Too many grains dramatically increase blood sugar, leads to obesity, hypertension, fluid retention, renal disease and cancer. Dogs should only eat grains in very small amounts. (BarfWorld website)

    On a more positive note, grains can be a nutritious source of protein and other nutrients when added to a diet, which includes animal produce. However, grains should always be organic both for us and our pets to avoid chemical residue from fertilizers and other contaminants. (Allegretti et al 2003)

    According to Dr Bruce Syme from Pets All Natural in Australia, grains, when they are unprocessed, cracked or crushed and pre-fermented to imitate the gut content of a prey animal are a highly nutritious addition to the diet. (Syme 2010)

    Pets All Natural, Australia, sell an excellent grain mix for cats and for dogs which is soaked overnight in water (to ferment) and then added to raw meat for a highly nutritious meal. Dogs really enjoy the grain mix, however I have found that cats can be far more selective and require a very slow, gradual introduction to this food.
    Grains and legumes, a good idea? If they are added together to the diet in small quantities, I believe they are a great way to increase the amount of essential nutrients in any meal.

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