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We live in a world full of desperately competing interests wanting our time and money. We are bombarded with marketing messages – FEED THIS FOOD EVERY DAY! And DON’T EVER FEED THAT FOOD IT’S POISON! Unfortunately, most of us don’t have time to sort through it all and end up settling for whatever allows us to move on to the rest of the many tasks we face daily. We’re so pressed for time. Most of us just want to make good choices to keep our families safe, and our families include our pets, of course. It is hard for me to see the sunshine when I listen to all the negativity, but then I remember something really important that I would like to remind everyone today: The answers to our questions are rarely black-and-white, and our choices are rarely best-vs-worst, even in the election for US President.

In this stark environment, when making choices about what to feed our families we need to educate ourselves to slice through the thicket of judgment that springs up around every issue, even of what to feed the Cat. Let’s calmly take some time to discover what meets our needs, and is suitable for our family. That is how real people live. In our family we believe that all of us – pets included, live healthier lives eating whole food that is minimally processed, and free of synthetics and chemicals. This means we prepare most of our meals at home with food procured from our local organic farmers’ co-op. It does not mean I never take the kids out for burgers and fries.

A further fallout of our pressurized culture is our deficiency of the possession of authentic knowledge. Knowing that just because someone else says it, does not make it true. Let’s not just google information, let’s find out the whole story before making a decision. In the quest to feed my family whole fresh foods, I have educated myself to know that some natural foods are meant to be eaten raw, some must be cooked to be digestible, and some ought to be avoided because not every body is the same.

Take the controversy about spinach: Yes, spinach contains oxalic acid, which binds calcium making it harder to absorb. But so do all greens and other vegetables high in antioxidants, and that doesn’t mean you can’t eat them. Oxalic acid is linked to the prevention of kidney stones and cancer in many studies. When cancer is diagnosed there is always a low level of oxalic acid in the blood. Some of the healthiest foods on Earth are high in oxalic acid!

The story of the densely nutritious fava bean is another example. The fava bean is an ancient vegetable known for its protein and soluble fibre. Fava beans are loaded with minerals, especially magnesium, potassium, folate and zinc; vitamins including niacin (B3), thiamin (B1), A ,C, K and beta carotene. They are low calorie and have no saturated fat but plenty of fatty acids. Fava beans are a nutrition power-house. Yet some people must avoid them due to Favism, a rare genetic condition affecting people of Mediterranean descent when they eat the raw beans. And fava beans contain naturally-occurring L-dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine (the ‘feel good’ hormone), and whose chemical structure is the basis of several drugs used to treat Parkinson’s. Neither of these is reason for (most) humans or animals to avoid fava beans, yet it appears to be on some pet owners’ ‘not good for dogs’ list. Like spinach, COOKING the fava beans safely changes the chemical structure, making it far less likely to cause a reaction, even if you did have Favism (which only affects humans), and cooked fava beans contain considerably less L-dopa than the raw plants (otherwise canned fava beans would cost a fortune, like the drugs do). There is no reason to avoid feeding cooked fava beans to your dog if she likes them.

This winter, let’s make time to curl up in front of the fire and educate ourselves about healthy foods our family may be interested to try. Let’s make informed decisions about what fits our own lifestyle and our values. There is plenty enough judgment and misinformation in the political arena.