If you want to pack more punch into your dog’s diet, feed him microgreens. These tiny shoots hold more nutrition than their mature vegetable counterparts, are easy to grow and easier to feed. Even if you’ve got a picky eater, you can hide these tiny plants in your dog’s dinner and he probably won’t even notice them.
So let’s get into some detail on microgreens for dogs, which ones to give and how to feed them…
What Are Microgreens?
It should come as no surprise that microgreens … the stage immediately after a seed sprouts … is the most nutrient-rich part of a plant’s life. Microgreens are immature plants and herbs. They’re at their prime at only 2-3 inches in height. They haven’t expended much energy growing leaves and long stems or establishing roots deep into the soil and bearing fruit.
Microgreens appear from seeds within the first 2 weeks of a plant’s life. They’re the first leaves produced from a seedling. And in just 10-14 days, they’re ready to add to your dog’s dinner. Once they reach 2-3 inches in height, you just snip them and eat. If you were to let them keep growing, you could transplant them into the garden. Then you’d eventually have mature plants.
The beginning days of a plant’s life are when its nutritional content is the densest because it’s producing vitamins and antioxidants it needs to grow. There’s been scientific analysis of vital nutrient levels in microgreens finding that microgreens have 40 to 400 times more nutrients by weight than their adult counterparts!
Common microgreens are seedlings of broccoli, chia, spinach, alfalfa, wheatgrass, lettuce, red cabbage and other veggies.
Microgreens Vs Sprouts
Be aware when shopping that microgreens are different from sprouts. Sprouts don’t have leaves … you just eat the seeds and stem or sprout. Microgreens need a little longer to produce their leaves.
Are Microgreens Safe For Dogs?
Yes, they are! And they’re good for dogs too. Microgreens contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants that can help protect against certain cancers and the effects of aging. And microgreens are easy for your dog to digest. Just like the full-grown versions, most microgreens are safe for your dog to eat as vegetables.
You’ll still want to avoid onion as well as anything spicy or pungent. But go ahead and add the rest to your dog’s bowl.
Why Feed Microgreens To Your Dog?
When it comes to microgreens, their miniature size definitely doesn’t matter. As mentioned, researchers found 25 types of microgreens have higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, phytonutrients and antioxidants than mature vegetables. They’re also rich in polyphenols … antioxidants that trap and eliminate harmful free radicals in the body.
They also show high concentrations of potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper and vitamins C, E and K.
There’s research showing that when mice are on a high-fat diet, red cabbage microgreens helped lower their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (1). They also reduced weight gain.
It’s believed microgreens lower the risk for the following diseases:
- Heart Disease – Antioxidants appear to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Microgreens may also lower triglyceride levels.
- Some Cancers – Fruits and vegetables rich in polyphenols may lower the risk of some cancers.
- Diabetes – Antioxidants reduce stress that prevents sugar from entering cells. Studies with fenugreek show it considerably improves sugar uptake into cells.
But what’s really amazing is that broccoli microgreens contain between 10 and 100 times the sulforaphane of adult plants. Sulforaphane is a well-researched compound that has been shown to combat cancer.
Benefits of Sulforaphane
Sulforaphane is an indirect antioxidant. It doesn’t bind directly to free radicals as most antioxidants do. What it does is trigger other important systems in your dog’s body to create their own antioxidants. It’s the body’s internal army that creates soldiers to fight the constant threat of free radicals.
This process is the Nrf2 pathway. Each cell in your dog’s body has this Nrf2 messenger. When there is cell damage (likely caused by free radicals), an alert goes out to that army. And the body goes to work to produce more antioxidant enzymes.
That keeps free radicals under control and helps prevent:
- Oxidative stress
- Other chronic diseases
Sulforaphane also neutralizes toxins, reduces inflammation and may slow tumor growth (2). And your dog will get as much as 100 times more sulforaphane in broccoli greens than in the mature vegetable (3).
Here’s a list of microgreens to give your dog.
7 Healthiest Microgreens For Dogs
Most vegetables can be grown as microgreens. Clover, arugula, peas and alfalfa are great microgreens to feed your dog. And you’ll want to try these too.
Broccoli is a great dog-friendly vegetable. It provides a nice dose of fiber, calcium and vitamin K. Microgreens contain more nutrients than mature vegetables by weight. And they also have fewer sulfur compounds that can cause gas in your dog. Even though your dog will get higher nutrients with microgreens, you don’t want to exceed 10% of his calorie intake. Adding broccoli microgreens means you also get more of the valuable enzyme sulforaphane.
Like all the brassicas (cruciferous veggies), kale is a good microgreen to use. Plus, it’s ready to harvest quickly, and delivers all of kale’s benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant plus has vitamins E and K, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
3. Red Cabbage
Cabbage microgreens pack a lot of nutrition in a tiny package. Cabbage has vitamin A, B, C, E, and K. It’s also high in beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Red Acre Cabbage is considered a superfood because it reduces inflammation and has cancer-fighting flavonoids. Plus antioxidants that improve eye, teeth, bone and immune health. Cabbage microgreens are among the best microgreens to give your dog.
If you’ve ever had pet grass for your dog or cat, it was probably wheatgrass. It’s packed with nutrients like chlorophyll and amino acids. It’s also safe for your dog in moderate amounts. As a mature plant and as microgreens, wheatgrass is delicious and nutritious.
5. Leafy Greens
Various types of leafy vegetables and spinach are great for your dog. Mature spinach has lots of key nutrients. And the spinach microgreens pack an even healthier dose of vitamins.
Sunflower microgreens contain vitamins A, B, D, and E. They’re also a source of calcium, iron, and magnesium. And they’re some of the easiest and fastest-growing seeds available.
Surprisingly, mustard is a dog-safe microgreen. Even though mustard seeds are toxic to dogs, properly prepared mustard microgreens are completely safe. Mature mustard greens can be difficult to digest, but microgreens are much easier on your dog’s digestion. Avoid pungent varieties like wasabi. Even though mustards have many health benefits, don’t feed them to your dog regularly, and save them for an occasional meal boost.
How To Grow Microgreens For Your Dog
You can buy microgreens in the supermarket produce section or you can grow your own. Microgreens are easy to grow in 7-14 days in a sunny location.
You can grow microgreens from regular garden seeds, so you can choose organic seeds or heirloom varieties.
Use a small, clean container like a plastic take-out container with drainage holes poked in the bottom. Add a tiny bit of potting soil, scatter seeds on top and cover with another scattering of soil. Dampen the surface with a spray bottle mister. You can cover with plastic wrap until the seeds sprout. Mist regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet.
Sprouts should appear in 3-7 days. Once seeds have sprouted, remove the wrap if you used it, and continue to mist once or twice a day. Once seeds have germinated, remove the cover.
Rotate your container so stems don’t lean into the sun. They’ll need about four hours of direct sun a day. In the winter months, some may need even more.
Cut off at the root and harvest when they reach 2-3 inches in height and they have their first four true leaves.
How To Feed Microgreens To Your Dog
If growing your own, harvest close to the time you need them so they’ll stay fresh. You can stir a small portion of microgreens directly into your dog’s food. Chop them or include them in a slurry with other vegetables to help digestibility. As you’ll see in a bit, you can even include them in the mix if you make fermented vegetables.
You can refrigerate cut microgreens to keep them fresh. Place them between damp paper towels in a container or bag. But it’s best to harvest right before your dog eats them. It’s so simple to grow microgreens indoors or out that it’s easy to have a supply ready for every meal. Freezing microgreens isn’t a great option because they get mushy when thawed. And you lose some of the nutrients that give microgreens their value.
Now if you want a twist on microgreens so you’ll be able to keep them longer, you can ferment them along with other vegetables.
Can Dogs Eat Fermented Microgreens?
Yes, fermented vegetables and microgreens are ideal for a dog’s shorter digestive tract. Carnivores are adapted to eat animals and animal products. The nutrients from these foods need less digestion. But most plant foods need pre-processing to break down cell walls for digestion. Fermented vegetables are already pre-digested by bacteria.
You can include microgreens along with other vegetables that you plan to ferment. The texture will be very limp but much of their nutrition will pass into the juice. So you want to be sure your dog gets lots of that too. Fermenting broccoli microgreens converts the glucoraphanin to sulforaphane so it can get right to work in your dog’s microbiome.
Benefits Of Fermented Microgreens For Your Dog
When you ferment vegetables and microgreens, you’re injecting food with good bacteria and yeast and then letting them develop at room temperature. The bacteria and yeast pre-digest the plant’s sugars. The sugars turn into lactic acid and break down the carbohydrates. Now you’ve reduced the carb load in vegetables for your dog and given him healthy probiotics instead (4). And you’ve also broken down the hard-to-digest cellulose.
Plus, the bacteria and yeast produce extra vitamins and enzymes to aid in proper digestion.
RELATED: How to make fermented vegetables for your dog …
How To Feed Fermented Microgreens To Your Dog
There’s no need to grind or purée fermented vegetables before feeding as you would with raw veggies. They’re already predigested by bacteria. It’s as simple as adding raw sauerkraut to your dog’s whole food diet or processed pet food. Many stores also carry fermented mixes that include beets, carrots and other root vegetables. Or you can make your own.
Adding fermented vegetables to your dog’s daily diet is also a great way to avoid frozen food because fermented vegetables keep for a very long time! Keep a couple of jars in your fridge and use them whenever you want.
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Microgreens can grow into mature vegetables and that’s the next stage in the life cycle of plants. But now that you know how nutritious microgreens are, you won’t have to wait around for those ripening and fruit-bearing days.
- Huang, Haiqiu, et al. Red Cabbage Microgreens Lower Circulating Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Liver Cholesterol, and Inflammatory Cytokines in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2016, 64, 48, 9161–9171.
- Curran KM, Bracha S, Wong CP, Beaver LM, Stevens JF, Ho E. Sulforaphane absorption and histone deacetylase activity following single dosing of broccoli sprout supplement in normal dogs. Veterinary Medicine and Science 2018 Aug 17;4(4):357-363.
- Fahey JW, Zhang Y, Talalay P. Broccoli sprouts: an exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997;94(19):10367-10372.
- Dimidi, Eirini, et al. Fermented Foods: Definitions and Characteristics, Impact on the Gut Microbiota and Effects on Gastrointestinal Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2019 Aug; 11(8): 1806.