antioxidants from whole foods for dogs and cats

Antioxidants are found in a range of healthy foods that are good for your dog or cat.

Once upon a time, I visited the Organic Islands Festival and Sustainability Expo on Vancouver Island in Canada. The motto was “Live Green and Buy Local”. I walked up to a vendor who was selling a whole foods diet for dogs and cats. Along with island grown meats, island canned fish, and farm fresh eggs, there were two baskets sitting on a table. In one basket was a plethora of supplements. In the other was an overflowing cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables full of antioxidants, in all shapes and sizes.

It was an interesting way to show that whole foods have powerful health benefits, including cancer-fighting potential. The research bears this out, and it’s not surprising, since whole foods are fully functional.

If we had the space, we could cover much of the alphabet, discussing the “A, B, C’s, and Z’s” of antioxidants, which, quite simply, are the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help protect our cells – and our animals’ – from the effects of all kinds of free radicals often caused by environmental factors, like second hand smoke, radiation and pesticides. Free radicals are nasty. They cause cell damage and play a role in cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

Back in 2005, USDA scientists analyzed the antioxidant levels in more than 100 foods. Each food’s antioxidant concentration and capacity was measured according to serving size. Blueberries, cranberries and blackberries came out at the top of the fruit list, while beans, artichokes and Russet potatoes topped the vegetable list.

Let’s take a look at a few of the antioxidant-packed foods that can easily form a part of your dog or cat’s daily diet, based simply on the easy-to-follow recipes included with this article.

1. Whole Grains

Whole grains are unsung heroes. I bet you’ll be a little surprised to learn that back in 2002, at a cancer conference, research conducted at Cornell University demonstrated that whole grains contain as much or more of the polyphenol antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.When choosing whole grains, make sure they are just that. Whole grains include the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.Whole brown rice is one of the world’s healthiest foods. It even contains one of the most powerful antioxidants, inositol hexaphosphate, also known as IP6, a natural substance that activates the natural killer cell function that can inhibit cancer. Research has shown that IP6 might be effective in slowing down tumor growth, and even preventing tumors from forming. Research conducted by the Medical College of Georgia reports that whole brown rice helps reduce nerve and blood vessel damage from diabetes. According to the American Cancer Society, it is not known whether taking a supplement provides the same effects as getting IP6 from whole food sources, so include high fiber foods like whole brown rice, in your family’s diet – human and animal.Oats are a strength-giving cereal. Oats contain 20 unique polyphenols called avenanthramides, which have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-itching properties. Scandinavian researchers found that adding oats to a gluten-free diet may enhance the nutritional values of the diet’s vitamins and minerals, as well as its antioxidant levels, including bilirubin, which helps in the elimination of free radicals and protects the brain from oxidative damage.

Oats support the gastrointestinal system by helping to remove toxins from the body. Studies reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research showed that whole grains, like oats, contain many phytonutrients whose healing and preventive properties have gone unrecognized, simply because research methods have overlooked them. Incidentally, oats are also a very good source of selenium, which is a co-factor to the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase.

2. Fruits

Blueberries and cranberries contain significant levels of resveratrol, a natural compound found to have anti-cancer properties and reduce the risk of heart disease. These berries are packed with antioxidants, some of which come from anthocyanins, the pigments that give blueberries their deep blue color.Red raspberries are a rich source of ellagitannins, which have been found to stop cells from mutating; if cells can’t mutate, they can’t turn into cancer.

3. Spices

When it comes to spices, no cupboard is complete without cinnamon and carob, both known throughout the ages for their healing properties. Cinnamon is a very good source of flavonoid phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthin.Carob contains all the principal vitamins and minerals. It is interesting to note that although most carob pods are discarded, they contain a total of 24 polyphenol compounds, making them a valuable functional food!

4. Coconut

Juliette de Bairacli Levy pioneered the use of coconut for animals. Coconut contains mediumchain saturated fats, which are transformed into energy and contain special properties that act as anti-inflammatory agents, helping to decrease bacterial growth, irritation, and inflammation in the body.

5. Honey

I am a big believer in the healing properties of honey, and buckwheat honey has some very special properties – namely, its phenolic content. According to research conducted at the University of Illinois, which analyzed 19 samples of honey from 14 different fl oral sources, it was found that honey made from the nectar collected from buckwheat flowers contained significantly more antioxidant value than that found in California sage.Darker honey contains less water, and less water means more antioxidants. In fact, the antioxidant content of buckwheat honey was found to compare favorably with the ascorbic acidrelated antioxidant content found in tomatoes, including all of a tomato’s vitamin C!These are just a few of the foods that offer antioxidant health benefits to dogs and cats (and people). Try the recipes to get yourself started!

Antioxidant Bars


  • 2 cups brown rice flakes
  • 2 cups oat flakes
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons carob powder or 1 tablespoon carob chips
  • ¼ cup first pressed olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsulphured blackstrap molasses
  • 4 tablespoons buckwheat honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups unsulphured, unsweetened dried fruit, e.g., wild blueberries, cranberries
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut chips
  • 2 cups filtered boiling water


Use organic ingredients wherever possible. Preheat oven to 350°F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except the boiling water. Add the boiling water, stirring until all ingredients are well incorporated, and leave for ten minutes.

Spoon mixture onto cookie sheet and press down with the back of a spoon, to make scoring easier after baking.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the bars are a light golden in color. Remove from oven, lightly score, then return to oven to cool completely, before storing in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

  • If you would like to make an extra crunchy treat that the whole family will love, bake for an extra 20 minutes.
  • This recipe can also be served as a porridge, after the boiling water has been completely absorbed by the rice, oat flakes, and steel cut oats, and the dried fruit is all “plumped up”.
  • As another alternative, 1½ cups of fresh instead of dried fruit can be used. Omit ½ cup of the filtered boiling water from the recipe. Be creative! Try making vegetable bars too!

Berry Bark


  • 1 pound organ meats, e.g., heart, liver
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon or Saigon cinnamon, or a combination


Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Pureé the organ meats in a food processor or blender. Make sure they are extra smooth. Then add the blueberries, and finally, the cinnamon.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spoon the mixture onto it. Place the cookie sheet in a cold oven. Turn oven on to 300°F, on a convection setting if available. When the oven reaches heat, set your timer for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 175°F, on a convection setting if available, and continue to bake for 45 minutes.

Take a look after 15 minutes. You will notice there is liquid around the edges, but this will evaporate over time, as the bark is drying out.

After 45 minutes, gently remove the bark, which will have a leather-like finish, and place on a clean cookie sheet or cutting board.

Lightly score, then cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. This treat can also be frozen. This is a perfect training treat or can be served as a meal topper. Bark can be stored in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.

  • If you would like bark with more bite and crunch, remove it from the parchment paper then return the bark to the cookie sheet and bake for 45 more minutes. You can speed up the cooking time by baking in a 350°F degree oven.
  • As an alternative, add 2 cups of a whole ground flour or sprouted flour of your choice to this recipe, until it pulls away from your mixing bowl. Line a cake pan or Pyrex baking dish with parchment paper, spoon in batter, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely before storing in a Ziploc bag or container in the fridge. Experiment with using a combination of whole grain flours, sprouted flours, pseudo grains like quinoa and chia, and novel whole flours like coconut and hemp.

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Suzi Beber has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.