(NaturalNews) Feeding your pets the highest quality food items with the most nutrition does not have to break the bank, especially if you already grow your own organic produce at home. There are many different fruits and vegetables, in fact, that cats and especially dogs will gladly eat that can help boost their immune systems, fight off infections, and even prevent the formation of chronic and debilitating illnesses like cancer.
Topping this list is 1) carrots, which both veterinarians and nutrition experts alike agree is highly beneficial for animals. Rich in beta carotene, carrots help promote healthy vision as well as scavenge damaging free radicals that cause oxidative damage in the body. Carrots also contain falcarinol, a bioactive compound that helps thwart the development of cancer.
Like with many other vegetables, carrots are most digestible for pets when they are either steamed or sauteed as opposed to raw, as both cats and dogs have difficulty digesting plant materials like cellulose that require special enzymatic breakdown. So gently steaming carrots with their tops on and slicing them up is an optimal way to boost the health of your pets.
Another powerful vegetable is 2) beans, which are typically rich in fiber and antioxidants. Both beans and bean pods, according to Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M., of Organic Gardening, are beneficial for animals, as they help decrease cholesterol buildup in the bloodstream and modulate blood glucose levels. Beans also help promote heart health, and are typically rich in B vitamins, which can help prevent anemia and gastrointestinal disease.
Perhaps the most nutritious vegetable for pets, 3) broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C, and D, as well as important trace minerals and hormone-regulating compounds. A powerful cancer-fighter, broccoli is rich in anti-cancer phytochemicals that prevent carcinogens from damaging healthy cells and promote the production of anti-carcinogenic enzymes. Broccoli also contains high levels of indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, two compounds heavily studied for their anti-cancer effects.
As far as fruit goes, 4) cantaloupe is highly beneficial for animals as it helps protect their eyesight. Like the aforementioned vegetables, cantaloupe is also rich in A, B, and C vitamins, which can help prevent disease-causing oxidative stress. Cantaloupe also tends to be a relatively clean food free of pesticides, and is also free of goitogens, which are naturally-occurring substances in some foods that reduce thyroid function.
5) Leafy green vegetables like spinach are another animal "superfood," as they are densely packed with antioxidants like flavonoids and carotenoids, both of which help to quell inflammation and deter cancer formation. Like with carrots, dark leafy greens that have been cooked or steamed are best for pets, and to help make them more palatable, organic broths, meats, and other savory foods can be mixed in for complete nutrition.
Foods you will want to avoid feeding your pets
Not all fruits and vegetables are beneficial for pets, however. According to Messonnier, onions are one particular type of food that is harmful to both cats and dogs, as it can damage red blood cells and potentially lead to anemia. Excessive amounts of garlic can also be damaging, although some say small amounts of garlic are safe -- Messonnier recommends roughly one small clove per 10 to 25 pounds of body weight daily at maximum.
Other harmful foods include grapes and raisins, both of which can damage kidneys in dogs, as well as chocolate, macadamia nuts, and xylitol.
"In onions and garlic, it's called a super-radical," says Dr. Nathan Lippo about the dangers of certain compounds found in these two foods for dogs. "It destroys red blood cells."