Research shows that dogs who eat their veggies at least three times a week have a 90% decrease in cancer risk. So, it doesn't matter what you are feeding your dog—add some veggies!
But when it comes to cancer, some vegetables stand out from the rest, especially cruciferous vegetables. That's because cruciferous vegetables contain a unique phytonutrient that has researchers excited, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound called sulforaphane.
Why Adding Foods with Sulforaphane to Your Dog's Diet Is Important?
Why do this? Well, sulforaphane can do a lot for your dog:
- Reduce seizures;
- Improve gastrointestinal health;
- Protect joints;
- Prevent brain disorders;
- Improve heart health.
All cruciferous veggies are rich in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds don't do much for your dog, but when they're chewed, chopped, or digested, glucosinolates are converted into isothiocyanates.
Isothiocyanates are the "active ingredient" in cruciferous veggies, with potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. There are several different kinds of isothiocyanates, all with health-promoting properties.
Let’s make this easy to understand and avoid turning this into a chemistry class:
The Top 3 Reasons to Use Veggies That Provide Sulforaphane
#1: Sulforaphane Protects Against Cancer
Processes in the cell or exposure to toxins and chemicals can cause a cell to mutate. Mutations can be inherited or develop from age and everyday wear and tear. Sulforaphane helps by:
- Protecting your dog's cells from damage;
- Deactivating carcinogens that contribute to the formation of cancer;
- Eliminating potentially cancerous cells through apoptosis (cell death);
- Stopping the formation of tumor blood vessels that support tumor growth;
- Inhibiting the spread of cancer cells to other parts of your dog's body through metastasis.
Many factors contribute to these anti-cancer activities, but one major contributor is sulforaphane's ability to inhibit histone deacetylase (HDAC) and methyltransferases. These are both enzymes that deal with DNA transcription. If they're inhibited, it will protect your dog's DNA by expressing special tumor suppressor genes. These genes help slow the division of cells, repair DNA mistakes, and tell cells when to die.
#2: Sulforaphane Fights Free Radicals
Your dog's body contains unstable molecules called free radicals. They're a byproduct of the metabolic process, and they can also occur when your dog has a build-up of toxins and chemicals. These toxins are in the air he breathes, as well as his food and water.
Free radicals are always present in your dog's body, and his immune system has no way to fight them. If left unchecked, free radicals will damage his cell membranes and cause chronic inflammation. This can lead to cancer, premature aging, and chronic disease.
Because your dog has no innate protection against free radicals, he relies on antioxidants from his diet to clean them up. So you need to get antioxidants into your dog every day.
Sulforaphane is different from other antioxidants and other veggies that provide them because sulforaphane can cross the blood-brain barrier.
The blood-brain barrier lets essential nutrients that have been absorbed into the bloodstream pass through. And it protects your dog's brain from infection caused by toxins and pathogens.
Sulforaphane is one of the nutrients that can pass through to the brain. It can interact with the Nrf2 pathways in your dog's brain cells. This promotes antioxidant production and protects the brain from oxidative stress.
#3: Sulforaphane Helps with Detoxification
When your dog is exposed to toxins and cancer-causing substances, they can build up in his system, specifically in the liver. This leads to constant low-level toxin exposure for your dog, oxidative stress, inflammation, and disease. But because most toxins are fat-soluble, they aren't easily broken down. So for the toxins to leave your dog's system, they need to be water-soluble. That's why the liver needs a two-step process to remove toxins from the body.
Phase I detoxification uses enzymes to prepare the toxins to be eliminated from the body by making them more water-soluble. The problem is that the toxins are made into compounds that are even more toxic than the original ones.
This isn't a problem if the second part of detox, Phase II, goes according to plan. The toxins will be made completely water-soluble and passed to the gall bladder and kidneys to be eliminated from the body. But if Phase II detoxification doesn't keep up, the freaky new toxins can wreak havoc with your dog.
Sulforaphane is a potent activator of phase II liver detoxification (10). It also activates enzymes that protect your dog's cells from DNA damage by carcinogens and inflammatory toxins.
Sulforaphane can cross the blood/brain barrier, and the good news is that Nrf2 regulates the release of Phase II detoxification enzymes needed to move toxins out of the body. That means nutrients that activate Nrf2 can increase Phase II enzyme production.
Here is a bonus! Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that a daily serving of broccoli sprouts protected against Helicobacter pylori in humans. H. Pylori can cause ulcers, gut inflammation, and digestive cancers. However, once the subjects stopped eating the sprouts, the markers for H. Pylori returned to their original levels. So, sulforaphane is a potent defense against some harmful bacteria.
How to Add Sulforaphane to Your Dog's Diet
Sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli is the richest source of sulforaphane of all cruciferous vegetables. But I can do you one better—use broccoli sprouts! Broccoli sprouts can have up to 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli. All studies done on sulforaphane use sprouts and not the mature plant.
Animal studies show that sulforaphane is bioactive at 0.1-0.5 mg/kg. So, if you're giving a supplement, the estimated dose for your dog would be:
- 5 – 25 pounds: 1 – 5 mg;
- 25 – 50 pounds: 5 – 10 mg;
- 50 – 100 pounds: 10 – 20 mg.
A single serving of sulforaphane tends to leave your dog's body after 24 hours, so be sure to feed it daily.
Before your dog can enjoy the benefits of sulforaphane, it needs to be activated. This happens when sulfur-containing glucosinolates called glucoraphanin are broken down by myrosinase.
Myrosinase is a digestive enzyme found in cruciferous vegetables. It's kept separate from glucoraphanin until you chew, chop, or cut the vegetable. Once this happens, the myrosinase and glucoraphanin combine and release sulforaphane.
To serve cruciferous vegetables (or sprouts), chop them into small pieces or mulch them in a blender. Let them sit for five minutes to give the myrionaise a chance to activate the sulforaphane.
It's safe to serve the vegetables raw, but if you want to cook them, lightly steam them for no more than three minutes. You also want to keep the temperature under 155 F. Otherwise, you can cook out the myrosinase and sulforaphane.
If you are using mature broccoli- cut the florets and let them sit for 20 minutes, and the levels of sulforaphane will continue to increase. Also, note that those stalks you throw out because they are too tough hold more sulforaphane than the florets. So, grab them, puree them, and add them to your dog's meal!
A University of Illinois study provides convincing evidence that the way you prepare and consume your broccoli matters. The study also suggests that teaming broccoli with broccoli sprouts may make the vegetable's anti-cancer effect almost twice as powerful.
"Broccoli, prepared correctly, is an extremely potent cancer-fighting agent -- three to five servings a week are enough to have an effect. To get broccoli's benefits, though, the enzyme myrosinase has to be present; if it's not there, sulforaphane, broccoli's cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory component, doesn't form," said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition. Unfortunately, according to Jeffery, many people destroy myrosinase by overcooking their broccoli.
How can we make adding broccoli to the dog’s diet easy? Use the Volhard Rescue diet or the Volhard Veggie Pak. But the broccoli is dehydrated - does it have the same benefit?
Scientists say cruciferous veggies must be fed raw or steamed below 158 degrees Fahrenheit because heat destroys myrosinase. This means staying away from frozen broccoli and cruciferous veggies because they’re often blanched before freezing. However, this is great news for the veggies found in the Volhard Rescue and the Volhard Veggie Paks! Our cold dehydration process never reaches a temperature that denatures the veggie (they are still considered raw) and, therefore, still contains the necessary elements for producing sulforaphane!
Want to boost what is in these Volhard supplements? Fresh broccoli sprouts contain myrosinase in abundance. And dehydrated broccoli florets often contain the precursor to sulforaphane. Research has shown that the myrosinase from the sprouts enhances sulforaphane formation and absorption from the dehydrated broccoli florets if the two are eaten together. In addition, research indicates that myrosinase from the broccoli sprouts produced sulforaphane not only from the sprouts but also from the precursor present in the dehydrated broccoli.
Myth Busting on Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are goitrogenic. This means they can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge. And that can interfere with how it functions. But, according to Dr. Jean Dodds, "Erring on the side of caution is prudent but, in this instance, the antioxidant and Vitamin K benefits outweigh the risks. The goitrogenic properties in these green leafy vegetables are minute and should not cause concern if fed in moderation." And steaming the cruciferous vegetables first can remove up to ⅔ of the goitrogens.
This is also another reason to consider broccoli sprouts. Studies on rats also show that broccoli sprouts can protect against thyroid damage and inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables can also cause digestive upset. Start small and watch how your dog reacts. If there are no signs of upset, increase the dose slowly.
Broccoli and broccoli juice in extremely high doses can also cause liver stress, according to studies. Researchers have not seen this in broccoli sprouts.
A Parting Reminder
So, now that we're hopefully big fans of broccoli sprouts and understand why they should be a regular part of a healthy diet. Cruciferous vegetables have many benefits, and studies find that eating them a few times a week reduces cancer risk by 90% or more. But when it comes to sulforaphane, full-grown broccoli doesn't even come close to these power-packed sprouts. In fact, 3-4 day old broccoli sprouts have up to 100x the amount of sulforaphane as mature broccoli.
Store-bought sprouts are also really expensive compared to growing your own. In fact, you will spend up to 20x as much! Sprouts from the store can run $1-2 an ounce, but you can grow them at home for $0.10-0.20 an ounce or less (if you buy broccoli seeds in bulk as I do).
You can grow 15-16 pounds of broccoli sprouts per pound of broccoli seeds with very basic equipment. To put this in perspective, a 3-ounce container of sprouts is $6 at my local store. That ends up being about $32 a pound for sprouts. An entire pound of seeds costs less than that (and much less if you buy in bulk). In fact, I buy 5 pounds of broccoli seeds for $40 and grow up to 80 pounds of broccoli seeds for that, making them $0.50 a pound.