“The pet industry is trending toward quality ingredients, which includes things like whole foods, pure ingredients, [and] organic and human-grade foods,” said Emily J. Hall, marketing manager of Nummy Tum Tum. “Pet owners want the very best for their pets and it all starts with the right diet. What’s trending right now in the food world has slowly made its way to the pet market as well.”
The health benefits of superfoods are reportedly being used to reduce weight, fight cancer, reduce joint pain and reduce tumor growth. This is particularly true for ingredients that are rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, like pomegranates. According to recent studies (Kim et al., 2002; Afaq et al., 2005; Malik et al., 2005), “Polyphenolic antioxidants found in pomegranate fruits have been shown to reduce tumor burden and inhibit angiogenesis and cell growth.”
What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods come in a variety of forms, with particular nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables making it to the top of the list. “Pumpkin and sweet potato are always great options to start,” said Hall. “But lesser known ingredients like blueberries, spinach, apple and cranberries are also great superfoods to supplement their daily diet.”
Apples contain an array of vitamins, including vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6, and they are rich in polyphenolic compounds. Pumpkin has been proven effective against a variety of gastrointestinal issues and can help regulate your pet’s digestive system. Blueberries are packed with vitamin C and natural antioxidants.
For those pet owners who prefer to avoid canning or preserving their own superfoods, the pet industry offers many ways to ensure the best nutritional bang for your buck. Nummy Tum Tum offers a selection of ready-to-serve organic superfoods preserved in BPA-free packaging. From apple to blueberry, there are unique blends owners can easily use as a flavorful treat or just to add additional nutritional support to their pet’s daily meals. They are also great as low-calorie, high-nutrient fillers for Kongs and other chew toys.
Organic Pet Superfood from Bixbi features organic mushrooms in their IMMUNITY line, saying they are “a pet’s best safeguard against free radical damage and immune system imbalance.” The products contain antioxidants such as l-ergothioneine, selenium and vitamins C and E to prevent damage caused by stress, infection, pollution and aging. The polysaccharides in their unique blend of powerful organic mushrooms reportedly improve T-helper cell activity, working to balance the immune system.
Functional Superfood Treats
Functional treats are also beginning to offer superfoods as their primary ingredient.
“Kale is a super antioxidant that contains essential vitamins, including beta carotene, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C and lutein,” said Paula Savarese, president and co-founder of Twiggy’s Cupcakes and Dogs Love Kale. “Kale and flaxseed aid in making your dog’s coat softer and shinier, with healthier skin underneath. Flaxseed also provides fiber in your dog’s diet. Dogs and pet owners everywhere love our treats because they provide our pets with the health and nutrition they deserve.”
For competitive and very active dogs, WellPet LLC launched a superfood protein bar for dogs in 2014. The bars contain pomegranates, sweet potatoes and kale paired with high-value proteins, such as bison, chicken and turkey.
“As pet parents increasingly search for ways to incorporate their own healthier lifestyles to pet’s, all-natural foods, supplements and treats have become a sought-after segment of the store,” said David DeLorenzo, president of Fruitables. “At Fruitables, we’ve done extensive research into the benefits that fruits and vegetables provide when fed to pets and have made significant discoveries in the areas of digestive health and obesity. We tend to look at the role natural ingredients play in the overall recipe of a product and how it delivers on three key areas in our Caloriesmart approach to nutrition: palatability, satiety and calorie management.”
From the Sea
The sea has been providing some of the most important superfoods for pets for years. Brown algae (kelp, fucus) is one of the more nutritious of sea vegetables. It can be easily dried and ground into a powder, which can then be sprinkled over the food.
Seaweed is one of the original superfoods used with pet foods and it has recently made a comeback.
Look for lesser known seaweeds to make an entrance soon. Nori, a Japanese seaweed, contains protein, galactans, vitamins—including C, E and all the Bs—and minerals, such as zinc and copper. Nori is also a strong provider of sterols and chlorophyll and is being investigated for its effects on regulating metabolism, assisting cognitive function and reducing joint pain.
Kelp has been around for years but is gaining popularity. Animal Essentials has released a line of Green Marine Pet Supplements featuring organic ocean kelp that is wild-harvested at the edge of the Arctic Circle in Northwest Iceland, chosen for nutrient content, a clean growing site, environmental stewardship and sustainable harvest.
“We are making a stand in our industry to only use sustainably harvested and ethically processed ocean-sourced ingredients,” said Greg Tilford, president and co-founder of Animal Essentials. “This is the right thing to do for the planet and it ensures the highest quality for our pets’ health, too. Our suppliers are as passionate about the environment and quality as we are.”