Turtles have a widely varied diet in the wild and are not picky about their food preferences. Of course, this doesn’t mean that turtles can eat anything. They do have specific dietary requirements to stay healthy and happy. This includes a high percentage of healthy vegetables and greens, but what about broccoli? Can turtles eat broccoli?
Turtles will most certainly eat broccoli if offered, but this does not mean they should eat it. There are several common vegetables that should not be given to turtles; surprisingly, broccoli is one of them. While broccoli has many health benefits for humans, it is not good to give to your turtle regularly.
This article explores why broccoli is best left out of your turtle’s diet and what better alternatives are. Let’s dive in!
Why Shouldn’t Turtles Eat Broccoli?
Broccoli is considered a superfood by many people due to its high amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. While broccoli can be fed to your turtle occasionally and likely won’t do much harm if given moderately, it’s best not to make it a part of their regular diet.
Firstly, like many other cruciferous vegetables, the stem and flowers of broccoli contain glucosinolate and riboflavin, which convert into compounds called goitrogens. These compounds can interfere with your turtle’s thyroid activity and thus limit their iodine uptake. This could potentially lead to liver and kidney disease and may even be fatal.
What About Broccoli Leaves?
Broccoli leaves seem like the perfect snacks for turtles: They are dark, green, and juicy, which is usually the ideal description of turtle food. They are also high in fiber and packed with minerals and vitamins. However, the leaves also contain goitrogenic compounds, albeit in far fewer quantities than the stem and flowers. Humans can easily eat large amounts of goitrogenic compounds because we are far more adept at digesting and processing these foods, whereas turtles have a far more sensitive thyroid gland than humans.
Broccoli leaves are certainly safer than the stems and flowers and may have a few benefits to turtles, but it’s probably best to leave these out of your turtle’s diet altogether or offer them as occasional treats only.
What Are Anti-Nutrients?
The other issue is that all parts of the broccoli plant contain compounds considered “anti-nutrients,” mitigating any nutrients to be gained by the plant. Anti-nutrients are as the name suggests: While nutrients provide nourishment and promote health when consumed, anti-nutrients prevent and block the absorption of nutrients. While there is still debate over how much of an effect these compounds can have on health, we’d rather be safe than sorry for now, especially regarding our pets.
Many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain glucosinolates that interfere with your turtle’s thyroid activity. But there are more of these anti-nutrients to worry about, too. Broccoli is also high in phytoestrogens, which can cause hormonal disruption and decreased fertility, and phytates, which can reduce the bioavailability of minerals in your turtle’s digestive tract.
What About Other Cruciferous Vegetables?
Unfortunately, most other common cruciferous vegetables also contain goitrogens in varying quantities, which should be avoided. These include vegetables like:
What Vegetables Are Safe for Turtles?
Unfortunately, broccoli is not a safe food for your turtle regularly, but don’t despair! There are many other healthy and tasty vegetables to give your turtle:
Most turtles are omnivores, and although they eat predominantly vegetables and fruits, they need to eat animal-based proteins regularly, too. Younger turtles (below 7 years) tend to be more carnivorous and will need more animal-sourced foods, but adults need a fair amount, too. These typically include foods like sardines, trout, or turtle pellets, as well as insects like moths, crickets, and worms. Ideally, your adult turtle’s diet should be 50% plant-based and 50% animal-based, although you can increase plant intake as they age.
What Should You Never Feed a Turtle?
While broccoli can be given moderately and occasionally without any negative consequences, certain foods should never be given to turtles. These include dairy products, as turtles cannot digest dairy, and any “human foods”. Avoid giving your pet turtle the following:
While broccoli in small amounts will likely be fine to give your turtle occasionally and in moderation, it should not be given regularly. The anti-nutrients in broccoli will likely prevent any absorption of good nutrients, and the goitrogens it contains can cause issues with your turtle’s thyroid. Luckily, there are plenty of other safe vegetables to feed your turtle, and feeding them broccoli is, in our opinion, simply not worth the risk.