Can Turtles Eat Cabbage? Don’t Feed Until You Read About This Compound First!

May 12, 2021

can turtles eat cabbage

We’ve always been told to feed our turtles leafy greens. They are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, after all. But are all leafy greens good for turtles at all times? Are there any downsides? In this blog. We’ll discuss can turtles eat cabbage or not. 

Can Turtles Eat Cabbage? 

Yes, turtles can eat cabbage. It’s rich in Vitamins A, C, E, and K that’s beneficial to their health. However, this leafy vegetable also contains goitrogens, compounds that hamper the production of thyroid hormones. Thus, overfeeding cabbage to your turtles can result in hypothyroidism. 

Goitrogens hamper the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with the iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. Cabbage also contains oxalates, which are known to harm the kidneys. However, the amount of oxalic acids in cabbage is relatively low compared to other vegetables. You don’t have to worry about it. 

The takeaway point here is to feed cabbage in moderation. Turtles love munching on cabbage – they can eat quite a lot of it if not intervened. But as long as you give moderate amounts once in a while, mixed with other food, you’re good to go!

You should always exercise caution when giving foods that are high in goitrogens and oxalates at the same time. Some examples are kale, mustard green, collard green, and broccoli. 

Now that you know the answer to can turtles eat cabbage or not, let’s look at the nutrition content in this leafy produce and what it means for your dear reptilian. 

Nutrition Chart For Cabbage 

Nutrient Amount
Vitamin A1.6% 
Vitamin C63%
Iron 0.9%
Calcium3.7%
Potassium6%
Protein 1.3 grams
Calories23

Note: The percent daily values are calculated based on a 2000 calorie diet. 

As evident from the table above, cabbage is a nourishing vegetable loaded with primary nutrients. In addition to the ones mentioned above, it also contains a good amount of manganese, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin B6. 

But are they any beneficial for turtles? Let’s find out! 

3 Health Benefits Of Cabbage For Turtles 

If fed within limits, cabbage can make a great snack for your turtle. It’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals that are quite valuable to turtles. Vitamin A found in cabbage helps maintain eye and respiratory health, whereas vitamin C helps fight infections. And lastly, calcium aids in the boosts the development of healthy bones and shells. 

Vitamin A For Turtles 

Cabbage is a great source of vitamin A, one of the two most indispensable vitamins for turtles. It helps them with respiratory and eye health. This nutrient is also known to support the overall immune system and organ health. 

On the other hand, lack of it could result in complications like Squamous Metaplasia and Hypervitaminosis. 

Vitamin C For Turtles 

Vitamin C is an excellent, water-soluble antioxidant that offers an array of health benefits to turtles. Antioxidants help to fight existing infections and prevent new ones. 

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles are especially susceptible to several infections since their lives revolve around water. Thus, feeding food rich in antioxidants can be really helpful. 

Calcium For Turtle 

Cabbage is a reliable source of calcium, which is super crucial for ensuring sound bone health and shell development in turtles. It also has minerals like potassium and iron, which once again help with the overall development of bone and shells. 

Mineral deficiency in turtles can invite a grave illness called Metabolic Bone Disease, which terribly weakens the skeleton system. 

The Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio Of Cabbage 

Box turtle eating cabbage

Almost all vegetables we know contain traces of calcium and phosphorus. 

While calcium is pivotal in determining a turtle’s health, too much phosphorus can make the shell softer and weaker. Cabbage has a 2:1 ratio of calcium and phosphorus, which means that it’s perfectly safe for your turtle if fed in moderation. 

Some vegetables with higher phosphorus content than calcium are tomatoes, asparagus, beet, and squash. Overfeeding these foods can hinder the calcium absorption process by forming calcium phosphates, which are insoluble compounds. 

So, make sure to regulate the portion size when feeding these produce. 

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Is Cabbage Harmful To Turtles?

Like all things in the world, cabbage, too, isn’t perfect in all senses. It does have its own share of caveats. First, it has compounds called goitrogen, which interferes with the function of the thyroid gland. Next, it can contain pesticide residues, which obviously is harmful to turtles. 

But here’s a catch. Both of these drawbacks can be easily solved. 

First thing, you need to give cabbage in moderation. I usually give my turtles twice a week, alongside other veggies and greens. As long as you are giving cabbage occasionally, you don’t have to worry about the goitrogenic compounds. 

As for pesticides, there’s good news. Cabbage is one of the cleanest foods in the Environment Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list. Unlike celery, tomatoes, and apples, cabbage has “low to moderate pesticide residue.” 

However, I’d still suggest you go with organic options if possible, as I do. 

What’s The Best Way To Give Cabbage To Turtles?

Once you thoroughly wash the cabbage, remove the node as it can cause choking. Next, separate the dark green outer leaves from the light green and yellow inner leaves. Then chop the outer leaves, sprinkle calcium or any other supplement (optional), and give it alongside other nourishing veggies. 

The inner leaves usually aren’t too nutrient-dense. Thus, it’s best to just give outer leaves which contain required vitamins and minerals. When preparing, don’t chop too finely – this will ooze out the cabbage’s juice and all the nutrients. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Box turtle eating greens

Can Box Turtles Eat Cabbage?

Yes, box turtles can eat cabbage, just like any other turtle species. But as I said before, only give cabbage once in a while, mixed with other fresh veggies. 

Some other veggies you can give are green beans, Romaine lettuce, turnip greens, and mustard greens. 

Can Turtles Eat Raw Cabbage?

Yes, definitely. In fact, it’s ideal to give your turtle raw cabbages. Most nutrients are lost when cooked or boiled. Water-soluble vitamins get destroyed by as much as 50-60%. 

I always give raw cabbage leaves to my turtles. 

Can Pet Turtles Eat Cabbage?

Pet turtles can eat cabbage, alongside a wide range of other vegetables and greens. If you’re introducing cabbage to your pet turtle for the first time, make sure to give small amounts and keep an eye out for any sign of illness or discomfort. 

Can Turtles Eat Cabbage Leaves?

No-brainer! Yes, turtles can eat cabbage leaves. In fact, it’s the only part of the vegetable that your pet can safely eat. Don’t give the cabbage node since it can be challenging to swallow and lead to choking. 

And while feeding leaves, it’s best to stick to the outer leaves since they have the highest concentration of nutrients. 

Can Turtles Eat Red Cabbage?

Yes, turtles clearly can eat red cabbage. In fact, red cabbage contains 30% more antioxidants than green cabbage. But once again, the key is to feed small amounts occasionally. 

Conclusion On Can Turtles Eat Cabbage

We live in a digital world. So, I always suggest making a habit of doing a bit of research every time before introducing new food to your turtle. 

Googling ‘can turtles eat cabbage’ isn’t that hard, is it? Sometimes, food that is super healthy for us could be harmful to turtles. Their digestive system isn’t built like ours. 

As for cabbage, yes, you can surely give it to your turtle – both green and red varieties. It contains many vital nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium that a turtle needs. 

However, make sure that you only give in moderation because it isn’t exactly free of vices. Cabbage contains compounds called goitrogens which meddles with the thyroid functions in reptiles. 

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.