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Can Tortoises Eat Broccoli? What You Need To Know!

Kristin Hitchcock

Yes, broccoli is an excellent source of nutrition for tortoises. We highly recommend it as part of their regular diet.

That said, turtles shouldn’t overeat broccoli. Excessive amounts of broccoli consumption can lead to elevated levels of goitrogens, which can cause damage to the thyroid, liver, and kidney in high amounts.

Moderate amounts of broccoli typically aren’t a problem. However, if you feed your turtle large amounts of broccoli, it could become a bit too much for your reptile.

We also recommend avoiding feeding them broccoli alongside other goitrogen-rich veggies, like kale and spinach. Many darker vegetables are high in goitrogens, though there are a few expectations.

As always, a balanced, varied diet is often the best. Your tortoise should eat a variety of different veggies, fruits, leafy greens, and flowers. All these foods provide the nutrition that your pet needs.

divider-turtleTortoise Nutrition

Broccoli can be a fitting part of your tortoise’s diet. However, it is vital to understand a tortoise’s nutrition needs before adding broccoli or anything else to it. They need a specific, varied diet.

Tortoises are herbivores in the wild and captivity. They live off of plants and must consume plant matter to stay healthy. They get most of their nutrients from fermenting plant matter in their stomachs.

Typically, we recommend feeding a pelleted diet to most tortoises. These diets are specifically formulated to meet their needs. Animals consuming mostly pellets shouldn’t develop any nutritional deficiencies, as the pellets contain everything that they need.

However, you should feed your tortoise plant matter as well. It will provide them with enrichment and add extra nutrition. Many tortoises love certain types of plants and will benefit from eating them occasionally.

Pelleted diets work best for medium to small tortoises. Larger tortoises often benefit from mainly eating hay. Some pelleted diets specifically designed for more giant tortoises may be more suitable, though.

In any case, a wide variety of veggies and fruits should be provided on top of this regular diet.

African spurred tortoises in the grass
Image Credit: WikiImages, Pixabay

What Vegetables Are Best for Tortoises?

We recommend feeding a supplement of fresh veggies to any tortoise. However, this should not make up more than 20% of their diet. The other 80% should be made up of specifically designed pellets.

Here are a few of our top vegetable recommendations:

  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Kale
  • Shredded carrots

Providing equal amounts of these veggies creates a high-quality veggie mixture.  We recommend choosing low goitrogen-rich leafy greens to feed alongside broccoli.

You don’t have to offer all these veggies at the same time. Instead, you can offer one or two at a time throughout the week or over 2 weeks. You should aim to provide a varied diet, but you don’t have to get the proportions exact.

It’s okay to feed a little bit more of one veggie than another. Formulating this part of your tortoise’s diet is more of an art than a science.

Can Tortoises Eat Raw Broccoli?

Yes, raw broccoli is preferred to cooked broccoli.

First, this is how tortoises would eat it in the wild. They typically don’t have anyone to cook for them when they’re wandering around the forest.

Secondly, cooking destroys some of the nutrients found in broccoli. The amount varies based on the cooking method and other factors. Usually, it isn’t a huge deal, as the change is often minimal.

However, there is little reason to cook broccoli when it reduces the nutrient content and isn’t necessary in the first place.

Save yourself the work and feed it to your tortoise raw. Many of them prefer it this way, anyway. It’s crunchier!

broccoli_ Auntmasako_Pixabay
Image Credit: Auntmasako, Pixabay

Can Tortoises Eat Canned Broccoli?

While we’re all about feeding tortoises broccoli, we cannot recommend canned broccoli.

Often, canned broccoli isn’t just broccoli. It has a bunch of other things added to it. Sodium is a common additive. It’s how the broccoli stays fresh for so long. All canned broccoli will include added salt. If it didn’t, it would just decay in the can!

While tortoises do need some sodium, this necessary amount is minimal. They do not need added salts in their diet.

Also, their smaller body size means that negligible sodium levels will affect them faster than they would affect humans. While canned broccoli may be perfectly fine for us to eat, the high levels of added sodium can make it a bit much for tortoises.

However, different brands of canned broccoli will have different amounts of sodium. Theoretically, a tortoise would likely be okay with small amounts of low-sodium, canned broccoli. But there is little reason to push it if fresh broccoli is available.

Furthermore, the nutritional content of broccoli may be different if it is canned. Most canned broccoli is cooked, which reduces the nutritional content. Canning may reduce the nutritional content even more, depending on the exact method that the company uses.

When in doubt, choose fresh broccoli.

Potential Benefits of Broccoli

There are many good reasons to feed your tortoise broccoli. When fed in moderate amounts, these benefits usually outweigh any potential risks.

Hydration

Assorted Veggies
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pixnio

Broccoli is decently high in water, though not so high that the animal is filling up on water alone.

Hydration is essential for a healthy tortoise. If they get dehydrated, it can lead to various issues. Usually, these problems occur after chronic dehydration. It can vary from individual to individual, though.

Tortoises use water to filter out chemicals in their body, including “anti-nutrients,” like phosphates and oxalates. Without enough water, tortoises may develop kidney problems.

Severe dehydration can be deadly.

A tortoise’s chief source of water should be fresh water available in a basin. However, they also get a bit of hydration from some of the veggies that they eat, like broccoli.

Vitamin A

Broccoli contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, it is high in vitamin A.

Vitamin A is used in bone and shell growth and formation. Without it, the tortoise won’t develop correctly. Younger tortoises are more susceptible to vitamin A deficiency because they are growing and require more of it.

In extreme cases, tortoises with vitamin A deficiency may experience liver failure.

Vitamin C

Broccoli also includes high levels of vitamin C, though not as much as some other fruits. Luckily, tortoises can make their own vitamin C — for the most part.

While the kidneys will synthesize a certain amount of this vitamin, it is also best for tortoises to receive some from their usual diet. Without enough vitamin C, a tortoise’s immune system cannot function properly.

fruits
Image Credit: Passion_Pics_Roben, Pixabay

How Much Broccoli Should a Tortoise Eat?

Raw veggies and fruits should make up about 20% of a tortoise’s diet. However, that doesn’t mean that broccoli should make up the entire 20%.

That would be quite a bit of broccoli!

Instead, we recommend offering broccoli alongside at least five or six other fruits and veggies. More is often better, as variety ensures that your tortoise is consuming a wide range of nutrients.

Therefore, broccoli should only make up about 3% of your tortoise’s diet. You may offer it once a week in a small amount alongside another veggie.

Eating more broccoli probably wouldn’t harm your tortoise directly. However, it definitely wouldn’t be good for them. In the long run, it may even lead to nutritional deficiencies and high levels of goitrogen, a toxin found in broccoli in small amounts.

How Should I Feed Broccoli to My Tortoise?

It depends mainly on their size. You should not feed them pieces too large for them to handle, though many tortoises are good about breaking up their food.

Wash the broccoli thoroughly before offering. Pesticides can severely damage your tortoise. Smaller tortoises are more at-risk due to their smaller body weight.

There’s no need to cook the broccoli. Preferably, you want to offer the broccoli alongside at least one other veggie.

Tortoises Eat Watermelon
Image Credit: Fotografie – Schmidt, Shutterstock

divider-turtleConclusion

Broccoli is an excellent supplement in most tortoises’ diets. It is high in water, vitamin A, and vitamin C, all of which are vital for your pet’s health.

However, broccoli should only be used as a supplement. Otherwise, your tortoise should be fed a pelleted diet formulated explicitly for them. Other veggies and fruits should be provided to keep their diet as varied as possible.

Raw, fresh broccoli is the best way to go. Cooking it may remove some of the nutritional content (and is unnecessary). Canned broccoli often contains added sodium and other additives.

Plain, fresh broccoli is an excellent snack for most tortoises.


Featured Image Credit: Melina Massola, Shutterstock

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!