Broccoli is considered one of the healthiest foods humans can eat: it is one of the nutritional superfoods. However, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding its suitability for dogs. The method of preparation is also a cause of speculation; whether it is healthier eaten raw or whether it should first be cooked.
Because dogs are omnivores like humans, they too benefit from fruits and vegetables in their diets. While certain of these foods are just as healthy for dogs as they are for people, some can cause digestive problems, intolerances, and several other health problems.1
Is Broccoli Safe for Dogs?
The answer is complicated. Broccoli is safe for dogs, within certain limitations. Broccoli does hold health benefits for dogs and contains essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, minerals, and fiber. But broccoli also contains isothiocyanates, a sulfur-based compound found in the florets which can cause gastrointestinal irritation in dogs. Isothiocyanates become toxic for a dog when the amount they consume exceeds 10 percent of their daily food requirements.
Broccoli can safely be added to a dog’s diet, provided it’s fed in small amounts and is always served cooked. Vegetables can provide a healthy and safe alternative to high calorie, processed snacks.2
All animals require a wide range of nutrients to survive and for their bodies to function optimally: water, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Because they are omnivores, dogs can digest plants as well as meat, and both are necessary for a dog’s health. Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage are all healthy feeding options. Root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets are full of nutrients, but also sugar so should be fed in moderate quantities. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts should be limited to smaller quantities.
Broccoli is chalked full of healthy vitamins. In one cup of broccoli, some of the following nutrients are available: vitamin k, vitamin c, chromium, folate, fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin a, vitamin e, and calcium.
This is not an exhaustive list of broccoli’s available nutrients. If your dog loves staying healthy, broccoli’s a great ally.
Introducing Vegetables to the Diet
Dogs can digest a large proportion of the vegetables they are fed, but the digestibility is dependent on the way they have been prepared. Their digestive systems do not digest plant fiber efficiently, but cooking vegetables lightly improves the absorption of these nutrients. Most vegetables and fruit can be included in a dog’s diet, although some are superior to others. As a general rule, the plant foods that take a longer time to digest are the right ones to select, while the rapidly digested ones, such as rice and potatoes, should be avoided. When adding vegetables to a dog’s meals, always make sure that they are as fresh as possible.5
Foods Dogs Can’t Eat
Avocado: Avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which is poisonous to many animals. Dogs are more resistant than most, but it is best to avoid feeding them this fruit.
Grapes and raisins: The substance that causes the toxic reaction in dogs is unknown, but what is known is that ingesting grapes can cause liver and kidney damage in dogs.
Onions: Every part of an onion plant is poisonous to dogs. Onions contain disulfides that destroy red blood cells, and that can cause anemia.
Macadamia nuts: It is not known what the specific toxin is that leads to symptoms of poisoning, but even a small amount can cause vomiting, hyperthermia, and depression.6
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Broccoli is a vegetable bursting with nutritional benefits for dogs. It has high levels of antioxidants which protect against cardiovascular disease. It is a rich source of vitamin K, which plays an important role in bone health and increasing bone density. Broccoli also provides dietary fiber which benefits bowel function and helps to keep your dog regular. Foods high in bioflavonoids, like broccoli, also improve immune function and protect against inflammation and allergies. Bioflavonoids occur in plants in combination with vitamin C and act as antioxidants.7
Can Dogs Eat Human Food?
Dogs can benefit from eating human foods, but the key is to always feed them in moderation. A dog’s digestive system works differently than a human’s. Food passes from the esophagus to the stomach, where the digestive process begins by breaking down the food with an acid that is a hundred times stronger than human stomach acid. The entire digestive process takes between eight and nine hours to complete: the shortest processing time of any mammal. A dog’s digestive system also cannot process grains, and they are eliminated at the end of the digestive process. Dogs are omnivores that in a natural setting would seek out a varied diet: meat, bones, and some vegetables and fruit.8
Human Foods Dogs Can Eat
Oatmeal: A very good source of fiber, which aids digestion and regulates blood glucose levels.
Peanut Butter: Able to provide dogs with a very healthy treat. It contains vitamin B, vitamin E, niacin, and healthy fats.
Fatty Fish: A great source of protein, calcium, niacin, selenium, and omega-3 fats for dogs. They help to maintain proper brain function and keep dogs’ coats shiny and healthy.
Coconut Oil: High in fat-burning, healthy, saturated fat, it is a quick source of energy for your dog’s brain and body.9
How to Prepare Broccoli
When preparing broccoli for dogs, simpler is always better. Steaming the broccoli is the best option and will retain all the nutrients; veer on the side of over-cooking rather than under-cooking it. It is best to avoid feeding your dog raw broccoli as raw vegetables are very hard for a dog’s stomach to digest and can cause an upset stomach. Broccoli stalks are also able to obstruct a dog’s esophagus.10
Foods You Can Always Add to Your Dog’s Diet
No matter what kind of diet a dog is eating, certain foods will always be beneficial if fed occasionally:
- Eggs, a complete protein
- Sardines, an excellent source of protein and omega 3
- Meat/chicken stock, source of protein and B vitamins