Simply put, functional foods are foods that have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.
On the other hand, non-functional foods do exist. These types of food have a negative impact on health and promote inflammation, chronic diseases and even cancer.
Knowing what foods are functional and what foods are non-functional will only help to improve our dog's health, as well as our own.
Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Lavendure are some of the world’s leading experts in pet nutrition who have revealed the latest scientific findings that show how nutritional ingredients “speak” to you and your dog’s body at the cellular level. This field of study is called Nutrigenomics. It is based on the premise that whole nutrition is the key to a healthy immune system and resistance to disease.
Functional foods include certain botanicals (plants), amino acids (building blocks of proteins), vitamins and phytochemicals that activate disease-fighting genes and suppress genes that promote disease. (Dodds & Laverdure, 2015) Many factors can complicate whether or not a food is functional, such as added chemicals, hormones or antibiotics.
Let's take a look at the main components of our Meals for Dogs...
What are Functional Proteins?
Protein is arguably the most important nutrient in your pet’s diet. Protein is responsible for building and repairing muscles and tissues and for providing the structure for skin, hair, nails, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and muscle fibers. Given the importance of protein, it stands to reason that dogs and cats should eat a lot of it of it in order to flourish.
As proteins are constantly being used, our pets need a constant supply to stay healthy. But it isn’t just the amount of protein that’s important - it’s the quality. Much has been written in the past about protein quality. There are many factors that can turn an otherwise high quality protein into an unhealthy food that contributes to inflammation and chronic disease. As a result optimal cellular health and beneficial gene expression is thwarted.
The characteristics of a high quality, functional protein according to the principles of Nutrigenomics are:
Furchild has incorporated a wide selection of high quality protein that is in its natural, fresh, state. Our proteins are unadulterated and we only use meats and poultry with no hormones and no antibiotics. Furchild uses a combination of muscle meat and organ meat from species appropriate fed animals including cage-free chicken, free-range turkey, free-range duck, grass-fed beef and grass-fed lamb.
What are some of the varieties of Functional Fats and Oils?
Furchild meals incorporate functional fats into your dog’s diet - fish oil, organic hemp oil, organic flaxseed oil. We also recommend pet owners add organic coconut oil as an ingredient of turmeric Golden Paste to their dog’s food.
Dietary fat supplies dogs with the most concentrated and digestible form of energy (more than twice the amount of calories per gram than protein or carbs). (Dodds & Laverdure, 2015) Important essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and 6 play a vital role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This promotes a healthy nervous system. Dogs can also consume high levels of fat in their diet because they have a much greater capacity to burn fat for energy than humans do. Plus, they love the taste!
What are some of the varities of Functional Fruits and Vegetables?
Furchild only uses organic fruits and vegetables to assure your pet consumes the highest form of nutrition. Our functional fruits and vegetables used in our Meals for Dogs recipes include:
Note, that while fruits contain the simple sugars fructose and glucose, fruits in their whole, unadulterated form possess functional attributes. Fruit contains much healthy fiber, which insulates the sugar. Because it takes the digestive tract longer to break down the fiber, sugar from fruit is absorbed into the bloodstream slowly, avoiding any sharp rises in blood sugar. Fiber in fresh fruit also helps promote optimal GI functioning and weight loss. (Dodds & Laverdure, 2015)
Watch Dr. Jean Dodds talk about the effects of Functional Foods on both humans and dogs.
Youtube Video: Queeniechi Says Cook
Inspired and informed by this research Furchild has gone to great lengths to ensure that our ingredients help maximize your pet’s health by providing ‘functional foods’ that promote ‘optimal gene expression’. The concept of eating healthy is not new, but it’s only over the past decade that scientists have really begun to understand how diet affects us at the deepest level—the level of our cells.
If you would like to learn more about this field of study, we highly recommend reading Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health by W. Jean Dodds and Diana R. Lavendure.
Sources: Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimal Health – W. Jean Dodds, DVM & Diana R. Lavendure