The next ingredient we’re covering in our ongoing series on Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet is spinach. We all know that Popeye found his strength in spinach and it does pack quite a powerful nutritional punch for humans and for your pets.
What is Spinach?
Spinach is native to Asia and a member of the goosefoot family and is a relative to beets, quinoa and chard. Spinach can grow to almost a foot tall, with large, dark green leaves that are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable.
Why would spinach be in pet food?
Spinach is high in nutrition and low in calories. The dark green leaves pack a superfood punch of health benefits including:
- Antioxidants that help fight diabetes
- Chlorophyll, a cancer fighting agent
- Vitamin K which promotes bone health
- Iron and Potassium for healthy blood
- Fiber for a healthy digestive tract
The best way to serve spinach to your pet is steamed. Raw can be too bitter and hard to digest and boiled spinach destroys most of the nutrients. As with any fruit or vegetable, be sure to wash it carefully to remove any pesticides. There are also many pet foods that contain spinach – see our list below.
Are there any risks to feeding your pet spinach?
The taste of spinach may be a little bitter for your dog, so you might consider adding just small amounts to their food. Do not add seasoning, butter or other ingredients, your pet doesn’t need them. Spinach is also high in oxalic acid which may impair the ability of the kidneys to absorb calcium which could lead to kidney damage, so be sure an monitor the amount of spinach you give your pet. Note, it would have to be huge volumes to have an impact, but it’s always good to be aware of potential issues.
In the 1930’s U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption. The city of Alma, Texas holds a spinach festival each April. The name spinach is derived from the Persian word ispanai meaning green hand.