For those of you short on time, the answer is yes! Your dog can (and most likely should, unless he’s on anticoagulants or prone to kidney stones) eat kale!
Kale is one of those amazing “superfoods” that we all, people and dogs, should be eating a LOT more of . I say a lot more because if you are like most people you have either never eaten kale or eat it on a very rare occasion. Additionally, I’m willing to bet that your dog has never eaten kale. Let’s rectify that oversight – now.
Before you rush out to buy a bushel of kale, let’s explain why kale is being haled as the latest “superfood” — a 2009 nutritional analysis of kale (as well as Chinese broccoli and collard greens) by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service department (their mission is to “develop innovative measurement systems for the determination of food components that influence human health” – basically, they figure out what’s in a food that makes it good, bad or indifferent for us) showed that there were “45 flavonoids and 13 other phenolics. Most of these phenolics are reported for the first time.” (ARS report - emphasis mine). What are flavonoids and phenolics and why do we want to include them in our and our dogs’ diets? Both are types of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of chemical that has an antioxidant (protecting the body from damage done by free radicals) effect. You have probably heard of the health benefits of green tea, dark chocolate, red wine and citrus fruits. It is the high content of the polyphenol compounds that make these foods have supposedly anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory (quercetin in citrus), possess possible cancer fighting properties (Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea), antioxidants to prevent cellular damage (resveratrol, a non-flavonoid phenolic compound in red wines), and potential positive benefits to cardiovascular health (cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate).
Great information but what does it all mean, you say? Baseline is that dark green leafy veggies, of which kale is, are high in the chemicals that help keep our bodies healthy. We aren’t getting enough of them – and neither are our dogs! Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K as well as lutein and calcium; it is low in calories and high in fiber (35 calories and 5 grams in a cup); it has more iron per calorie than beef; it is fat-free and helps lower cholesterol. It is widely used as a nutritional therapy to detoxify the liver (read this fascinating article on how kale helped one dog’s large lipoma disappear in 30 days!). Between the high levels of vitamin K (over 600% RDA for adult humans in a cup) and a nice dose of omega-3 fatty acids, kale is great for helping combat inflammation. Kale juice is reported to be antibacterial. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse!
All this has convinced you that your dog needs kale in his diet . . . but how? Easy. Sort of. Remember that for veggies to be truly bioavailable within a dog’s short (relative to ours) intestinal system they have to be “prechewed” or the equivalent thereof. Light steaming or pulping it up with a food processor are good ways to break down the cellulose fibers in the kale. Once the kale is ready, you can mix it in with their regular food. In my research I didn’t find any formula on how much kale one should feed a dog, but I’m going out on a limb and say that one leaf a day is safe for a medium-sized dog. Obviously, if you have a tiny lap dog or a giant breed you’ll want to adjust accordingly. Be warned that the additional fiber will probably cause a little gas but it should be temporary – to minimize this, you might want to start off with small amounts of kale and build up.
Another way of incorporating kale into your dog’s diet is as a snack. Here’s a super simple recipe that you can make for yourself and your dog:
- Preheat oven to 350 °F
- Tear kale into individual, smaller leaves and wash thoroughly.
- Place leaves on baking sheet
- Mist lightly with olive oil
- Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes depending on leaf thickness and oven variation. Watch for browning/singeing along the leaves’ edges.
At the beginning of the post I said that there were some dogs that should NOT eat kale. Let’s review these points — dogs on anticoagulants shouldn’t eat kale because of the high levels of vitamin K that can interfere with the drugs; dogs that are prone to kidney stones shouldn’t eat kale because it contains oxalic acid, a compound that may contribute to their formation.
When buying kale, look for leaves that are crisp, dark green with a bluish tint. Frozen kale is an option during times when it is hard to find, out of season or expensive.
Do you have a question about a particular food and wonder if your dog can eat that? If so, send it to me and I’ll get you an answer!
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