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Can Tortoises Eat Broccoli? Vet-Approved Benefits & Risks

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Tortoises are foragers, and in the wild, they will eat various leafy plants and fallen fruits. While you can’t mimic this diet exactly for your pet tortoise, there are many vegetables that you can give them that are beneficial. Broccoli isn’t toxic to tortoises but should only be given to them in moderation. It contains goitrogens and oxalic acid, which can be dangerous in large quantities, and some tortoise owners dislike feeding it to their pets.

Whether you want to avoid it completely or give your tortoise a small floret every now and then is up to you. This guide explains the dangers and shares safe ways for you to give broccoli to your tortoise.

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Can Tortoises Eat Broccoli?

Broccoli isn’t outright toxic to tortoises, but giving it to your reptile needs to be done with care due to the goitrogens in the vegetable. Always make sure your tortoise doesn’t eat too much broccoli and that it only makes up a tiny part of their overall diet. Broccoli can help give them an extra nutritional boost, but they need a variety of other leafy greens and vegetables to stay healthy.

Also, there are plenty of other vegetables that your tortoise can eat, and many of them don’t pose as much of a risk. When you’re in doubt or if your tortoise has a bad reaction to broccoli, steer clear and offer them a safer vegetable instead. You should also avoid broccoli if your tortoise eats other goitrogen-rich foods like kale or spinach.

A little turtle eating carrots and broccoli from a rocky dish in a terrarium with red light
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators,Shutterstock

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What Parts of Broccoli Can Tortoises Eat?

If you do decide to give broccoli to your tortoise, pay attention to which parts of the vegetable you give them and how much. Certain aspects of the broccoli plant are safer for your tortoise than others, but all of it can pose a danger if you give them too much.

1. Florets

The bushy florets make up the main part of the plant. Cut into small, manageable chunks, fresh broccoli florets are tasty treats for your tortoise. You can add them to a simple vegetable salad—just avoid giving them other goitrogen-rich veggies at the same time—or give a floret to them as a simple, one-off treat.


2. Leaves

When most people eat broccoli, they remove the leaves. But the leaves are edible too. In fact, your tortoise can eat broccoli leaves just like they can eat the florets. If there’s a leaf attached to the broccoli that you give your tortoise, you can let them have it.

Broccoli
Image Credit: kgjerseth, Pixabay

3. Stems

The stem of the broccoli is the part to be the most cautious about because it is the most fibrous part and can be difficult to eat. Your tortoise can eat the stem, but you’ll need to be extra careful about how much they eat. It’s safest to stick to the leaves and florets.

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Why Is Too Much Broccoli Dangerous for Tortoises?

If you always seem to have broccoli on hand, it can be tempting to regularly give a few pieces to your tortoise. Although broccoli is safe in moderation for your tortoise, there can be severe consequences if they overeat it.

1. Goitrogens

Broccoli is full of goitrogens, compounds that interfere with the thyroid. Specifically, they’ll affect thyroid hormone production and promote thyroid tissue growth. Too many goitrogens can damage the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism.

If you do feed broccoli to your tortoise, avoid mixing it with other goitrogenic vegetables (those from the Brassica family) to reduce the risk of causing harm.

An old sick tortoise close-up
Image Credit: Laura Crazy, Shutterstock

2. Oxalic Acid

Common in most plants, oxalic acid is another risk factor. In moderation, it’s not a major problem, but too much can contribute to calcium deficiency. Oxalic acid binds to calcium and prevents your tortoise from using it properly. The relative lack of calcium will interfere with the health and development of their bones and shell.

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How to Give Broccoli to Your Tortoise

Tortoises shouldn’t eat broccoli all the time, but when you do give them a piece, you should offer it to them safely. Adjust the amount of broccoli that your tortoise eats depending on their size and whether they’ve eaten any other goitrogen-rich vegetables recently. Here are several serving options to consider.

1. Raw

Cooking broccoli removes many of the nutrients that tortoises can benefit from. Steaming vegetables is one of the preferred ways to cook vegetables for pets, but it isn’t always necessary. You can give raw broccoli to your tortoise, and they may enjoy the natural crunchiness.


2. Unseasoned

It can be tempting to add spices or other additions to make vegetables taste even more delicious. Your tortoise, however, doesn’t need these things, and it’s much healthier for them to eat broccoli—or any other vegetable—without anything added to it.

This is why you should avoid giving canned broccoli to your tortoise. While it might be convenient and easier to store, it often contains salt and might also include other herbs and spices that could be dangerous for your tortoise. The canning process can interfere with the nutritional content too. Fresh broccoli is always best.

Macro photo green fresh vegetable broccoli
Image Credit: Bukhta Yurii, Shutterstock

3. Washed

Remember to thoroughly wash the broccoli before you give it to your tortoise. This will get rid of any pesticides that might be lingering on the plant.

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What Are the Benefits of Broccoli for Tortoises?

Broccoli can be a controversial vegetable to give to your tortoise. It can still be beneficial for them, though, once you figure out the right amount. With broccoli a part of a balanced and carefully managed diet, there are a few health benefits that your tortoise will appreciate.

Hydration

Water is essential to everyone’s diet, and your tortoise needs access to clean water at all times. Giving them moisture-rich vegetables can also help make sure they stay hydrated. One of the benefits of fresh broccoli is its water content. It’s a tasty and delightfully crunchy way for your tortoise to maintain hydration, especially on warm days.

Bunch of fresh green broccoli on brown plate over wooden background
Image Credit: mama_mia, Shutterstock

Vitamins A and C

Broccoli contains two important vitamins: A and C. Vitamin A helps your tortoise’s development by aiding in their bone and shell health. While tortoises typically eat a large amount of vitamin A-rich vegetables, they can be prone to hypovitaminosis A. Vitamin C helps keep your tortoise’s immune system functioning as it should.

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Conclusion

Broccoli is a crunchy and nutritious vegetable that we add to meals, whether raw or cooked. Tortoises can eat it too but only in moderation. Raw broccoli is packed with vitamins, minerals and water that can be beneficial to your tortoise, but too much can result in calcium imbalance and thyroid problems resulting in poor health.

You don’t need to feed broccoli to your tortoise, though. There are plenty of other safe vegetables that they’ll enjoy instead.


Featured Image Credit: Melina Massola, Shutterstock

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