Can Tortoises Eat Kale?

As humans we know leafy green vegetables are typically referred to as ‘super-foods’ due to the high amount of nutrients packed inside. Fresh vegetables should be included in a tortoises diet, experts recommended about 20% of their diet filled with them. Does this mean all vegetables are safe for tortoises to eat? What about kale? Let’s find out.

Can tortoises eat kale? Yes tortoises can eat kale, but it shouldn’t be fed too regularly. Kale is a goitrogenic food which means it can interfere with your tortoises thyroid function, causing problems with the liver and kidneys along with slow growth and metabolism issues. In moderation kale is a great source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, C, K, potassium, calcium and manganese.

In this article we are going to discuss the various health benefits of kale, should your tortoise have it raw or cooked among some other things we thought you should be aware of.

Is Kale Safe For Tortoises?

Kale can be considered relatively safe for tortoises, meaning it’s not actually toxic itself but there are some things you need to be aware of before feeding it to your tortoise.

Kale alongside cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts has compounds called goitrogens inside it. These compounds prevent your tortoise from using iodine within the body, which then causes issues with the thyroid.

A healthy thyroid is needed for your reptiles metabolism, growth and skin cells. Therefore a non-functioning thyroid will cause problems with these things which can lead to stunted growth, shedding and damage to the liver and kidneys.

However if fed in moderation kale can help your tortoise with an array of things within the body due to it’s anti-cancer properties, blood clotting, bone strengthening and some other things you are about to read.

It’s important not to feed kale in conjunction with other goitrogenic foods as this is when it may become a problem.

Kale Benefits For Tortoises

100 grams of raw kale contains the following nutrients :


Source Of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is most important for healthy immune function in tortoises, not enough in their diet and will be more prone to disease and illness.

It’s also important for skin and eye health. In the body vitamin A is converted into beta carotene which has many benefits for the eyes by keeping the cornea moist and healthy.

Tortoises often experience a deficiency in vitamin A, typically young reptiles. This can cause swelling of the limbs, inflamed eyelids, horny parts of the mouth thickening and difficulty breathing.

Hypovitaminosis A is usually treated by optimizing the diet to include more vitamin and isn’t serious if it’s treated early.

Vitamin C

Goji berries also have a high vitamin C content. A potent vitamin with numerous advantages for tortoises, the most important of which is that it is an antioxidant. These compounds protect your reptiles cells from free radical damage. Antioxidants are dangerous substances that might cause problems like as cancer, but they strive to neutralise them.

The other main health benefit to vitamin C is the positive effects it has on the immune system. It fortifies tortoises to be able to fight off foreign attacks in the body.

Vitamin K

Kale contains a large amount of vitamin K which is a vitamin needed for your tortoise to be able to form blood clots efficiently. This is needed to heal wounds and prevent excess bleeding.

Vitamin K also has bone strengthening properties.


Manganese is important for tortoises for a number of reasons; it helps them to absorb calcium meaning there’s a smaller chance they become deficient in it. It’s also necessary for a healthy metabolism alongside healthy brain and nerve function.


Tortoises need calcium as it’s very important for shell protection and health. It’s also needed for healthy bones, meaning a smaller chance they break or fracture one.

A calcium deficiency in tortoises is serious because if it’s not treated it will eventually lead to metabolic bone disorder where their shell will break and can eventually lead to seizures or even death. Many people will sprinkle a calcium supplement onto their tortoises food to ensure they are getting enough of it.


Lastly we have potassium. A mineral needed for regulating your tortoises heartbeat and maintaining an overall healthy cardiovascular system.

Potassium also : helps their muscles work and contract efficiently, synthesizes proteins and helps carbohydrates to be metabolized.

Raw vs Cooked Kale – Which Is Better?

Raw and cooked kale have different benefits, we will discuss them and let you form your own opinion as to what’s best for your tortoise.

Raw kale contains a better nutritional profile, due to the cooking process killing off some nutrients, mainly the antioxidants and vitamin C.

In a study kale was cooked 5 different ways and all the nutrients were compared to kale which hadn’t been cooked. All the cooked kale contained significantly less nutrients, however steaming it seemed to retain the most antioxidants and minerals compared to the other methods.

On the other side of the coin, cooking kale actually deactivates the enzymes that release goitrin, meaning the negative effects on your tortoises thyroid is going to be significantly reduce if it’s cooked.

Personally I boil it to reduce the effects of the goitrogens however feeding kale raw shouldn’t be a problem if you only feed it on occasion.

Kale For Tortoises – Summary

Overall kale is a healthy food your tortoise can enjoy many nutrients from. It’s important to feed it in moderation to protect the thyroid gland as kale is a goitrogenic food. You should add kale to an already well balanced diet, make sure to add other vegetables so that your reptile doesn’t become deficient in certain nutrients kale doesn’t have.

I hope you found this article useful and your tort enjoys this healthy new addition to their diet!