Although this ingredient is more commonly known in human food circles as a dessert, recently it has proved to be a great addition to grain-free specialty pet foods.
Why is Tapioca in Cat Food Important?
Unlike tapioca desserts which contain added sugar, this unique ingredient provides a novel source of energy. Protein in foods is the component most commonly responsible for adverse food reactions. Because tapioca does not contain protein, it is not considered a potential allergen or source of food sensitivity. This is especially important in limited ingredient diets that are designed for cats with adverse food reactions.
Carbohydrates such as tapioca are a highly digestible food source and are also important in kibble and wet recipes for a variety of reasons. The shape, texture and density of kibble is dependent on the carbohydrate (starch) content of the food. In wet recipes, tapioca is often used to provide a specific texture. This is very important, as mouth feel and the structure of the kibble and wet food helps to determine palatability, which is especially important for cats that have a tendency to be picky eaters.
Although the glycemic index of individual ingredients is often scrutinized in recipes, preliminary research suggests that glycemic index in cats is not significantly different between diets that contain pulses, grains or other carbohydrate sources.
Since tapioca only supplies starch in a recipe, it allows more flexibility to create recipes with different nutrient profiles. This is important for animals requiring less protein in the diet, or a specific nutrient level. As well, tapioca contains a small amount of resistant starch. This type of starch has benefits similar to fibre, which can help support digestive health.
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