Recently, grain-free pet food is becoming increasingly popular. Similarly, there is also an increase in other nutritional approaches such as vegan, BARF, exotic or boutique. Of course, the raw materials used in food preparation are important. However, what is more important is whether the feedstuff has a complete and balanced nutrient composition for your pet, or which functional components it contains to support your pet’s health.
Grain-free pet food is defined as the food that is produced without using grains such as corn, wheat, rice, oat and barley. The contents of the products in this class vary based on consumer trends, and accordingly, the raw materials used in the food composition have a wide variation. This type of food might either contain animal or plant proteins at a high level, or be formulated by intensively using other non-grain food raw materials. In short, when grain-free food is in question, it is quite hard to guess which raw material is used instead of grains.
At this point, it should be noted that grains are not bad for cats and dogs. As long as they are used in suitable proportions and the food has a balanced starch level, grains are a good source of energy. They also help meet the fiber requirements of cats and dogs and promote the regular functioning of the digestive system.
Due to the raw materials used in its composition, grain-free food generally contains a higher level of proteins. As a common mistake, grain-free food is believed to not contain starch. Existing as a stored nutrient in plants, starch is grouped under carbohydrates, one of six essential nutrients needed in the nutrition of living beings.
Grain-free cat and dog food series might also contain starch. However, in those products, starch is sourced from other vegetal components such as green peas and potatoes rather than grains (cereal grains). One of the biggest differences between grain starch and other starches is that their amylose/amylopectin levels are different from each other. As a result, the speed at which starch is broken down in the digestive system varies. For example, the starch derived from green peas, a member of the legume family, is broken down faster than the starches derived from grains (corn, wheat, barley, etc.). As a result of eating a food rich in grain starch, enzymatic activity might be inadequate in the small intestine. In such a case, the starch passing into the large intestine without being digested is used as a nutrient source by the bacteria existing there. Consequently, the intestinal microorganism balance might be disturbed, causing to develop digestive system problems.