Can Tortoises Eat Cabbage?

When it comes to feeding your pet tortoise it can be difficult due to the conflicting information you’ll find some sources say one thing and other sources say another. It’s best not to complicate things and stick to a diet with fresh vegetables, flowers plants, and leaves. Does this mean all vegetables are safe for tortoises, however? What about cabbage? Let’s find out.

Can tortoises eat cabbage? Yes, tortoises can eat cabbage although it should be fed sparingly as it’s a goitrogenic food. This means it can prevent iodine from being absorbed therefore causing issues with your tortoise’s thyroid gland that includes shedding and liver problems. Cabbage contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals that will benefit your tortoise if it’s fed in moderation.

In this article we are going to discuss the possible health benefits of cabbage, is it best raw or cooked among some other important things you should know before giving cabbage to your reptile.

Is Cabbage Safe For Tortoises?

Cabbage is known as a superfood for good reason. However, this is mainly when it comes to humans what about tortoises? It’s extremely high in vitamins and minerals for the low amount of calories that are in the vegetable. This makes it appealing for weight loss as you could eat it all day and not consume many calories.

Luckily for tortoises, cabbage doesn’t contain any outright toxins that can seriously harm them. It does however contain goitrogens that can interfere with your reptiles thyroid gland but fed in moderation cabbage has many benefits:

  • Improved digestion
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Immune system booster
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • It’s contains antioxidants

In the next section we will cover the health benefits in further detail.

Cabbage Benefits For Tortoises

According to the USDA, 100 grams of cabbage contains the following nutrients:


High In Calcium

Cabbage has calcium packed inside it. Many tortoise owners know the value of calcium in their reptile’s diet however if you aren’t aware then let me explain.

Tortoises need calcium as it protects their shell and keeps it healthy along with it being needed to support a functioning skeletal structure.

A lack of calcium in your reptiles diet can cause pyramiding and soft shell syndrome or metabolic bone disease. If not treated this can eventually lead to death so it’s important your tort receives enough calcium in their daily diet.

Vitamin K

Tortoises need vitamin K to make a protein called prothrombin. This helps your tortoise with healing wounds as it has many blood clotting effects. If your reptile gets a cut that bleeds, vitamin K is what works in the body to heal the wound and prevent it from bleeding too much.

Vitamin K is also important for bone health.

Vitamin C

Cabbage also contains vitamin C, a nutrient that helps your tortoise absorb iron more efficiently. This in turn leads to a more energetic active tort!

Vitamin C also plays a huge role in strengthening the immune system, without it your tortoise’s immune system wouldn’t be able to deal with organisms and bacteria leading to them becoming sick often.


One of the main roles of manganese is its ability to help calcium get absorbed and used within your reptile’s body. This is important because as we covered calcium is an extremely important mineral that protects your tortoise’s shell.

Manganese is also important for :

  • Brain and nerve function
  • To form new body tissue
  • Carbohydrate and fat metabolism
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Blood clotting

Not enough manganese can lead to a calcium deficiency in tortoises.


Finally we have fiber. Tortoises need this nutrient in their body as it aids their digestive system. Fiber can help prevent constipation along with flushing out the gut to get rid of toxins.

Too much fiber can have adverse effects such as diarrhea and stomach upset.

Cabbage Risks For Tortoises

It’s A Goitrogenic Food

Cabbage is almost the perfect food due to the vast amount of nutrients it contains, however in life nothing is ever perfect, even delicious cabbage.

In cabbage and other similar foods like kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower there are compounds called goitrogens.

What they do is interrupt the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, in other words, they make it harder for your tortoise’s body to produce hormones that are important for a healthy metabolism.

While goitrogens aren’t toxic as they won’t cause life-threatening harm, it’s advised you give them foods that are high in goitrogens on occasion.

You should also note that two goitrogenic foods should never be fed together or back to back. This means if you just gave a serving of kale to your tortoise the next thing they eat should never be another goitrogenic like cabbage, brussels sprouts, or broccoli.

If fed moderately there’s no reason why your tortoise can’t enjoy the vast number of nutrients available in cabbage.

Raw or Cooked Cabbage – Which Is Better?

Cooking cabbage tends to strip away some of the desired nutrients inside the vegetable, mainly the vitamin C as cooking it can reduce the vitamin C content by around 80%!

Although when it comes to tortoises cooking the cabbage is the recommended method. This is because the cooking process kills the enzymes that are responsible for cabbage to be goitrogenic.

Some of the nutrients lost in the cooking process are a good sacrifice in order to make the food a lot safe for your reptile as a whole. They might even find it tastier while cooked.

Cabbage For Tortoises – Summary

When given on occasion cabbage can be a safe nutritious food for your tortoise to reap the benefits from. It includes nutrients like fiber, vitamin K, calcium, vitamin C, and manganese that are excellent for tortoises.

As cabbage is goitrogenic it shouldn’t feature too heavily in your tortoise’s diet because it will impact their thyroid causing problems with their metabolism and growth.

I hope your tortoise enjoys this healthy new snack in their diet!