Can Bearded Dragons Eat Kale? Looking Beyond The Oxalate Myth. featured image
Bearded Dragon Diet | Bearded Dragon Vegetables

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Kale? Looking Beyond The Oxalate Myth.

About 6 min reading time

Can bearded dragons eat Kale? Is Kale For Bearded Dragons OK? Yes, bearded dragons can eat Kale semi-regularly, however there’s some things to be aware of. This is one of the most hotly debated topics in almost any bearded dragon online group we see. We’ll go into more detail below.

What Is Kale For Bearded Dragons?

Kale is a form of cabbage similar to Collard Greens and Bok Choy in that it doesn’t form a tight head, instead growing loose leaves. Kale leaves can be quite fibrous and tough compared to collard or spring greens.

Kale is often considered to be a ‘super-food’ for humans because it contains a good quantity of minerals and vitamins as well as being good for fibre content too. In the bearded dragon world it’s been somewhat debated as to how good it is for them, with some sources stating that Kale is very high in oxalates (leading to reduced calcium metabolism) and other sources stating it is not. Kale’s goitrogenic effects are also heavily debated.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Kale?

Yes, bearded dragons can eat Kale. We err on the side of caution, for the reasons discussed below and suggest Kale should not be given regularly but can be given semi-regularly as part of a mixed, balanced salad diet. There is much discussion in bearded dragon groups about the oxalate and goitrogenic effects of Kale.

On the note of Kale being high in oxalates, the evidence we’ve found suggests it’s no worse than cabbage or squashes and indeed is significantly better than Collards[2]. In our view it is not Oxalates that cause the problem for bearded dragons – despite much anecdotal discussion that it is. We note that Wikipedia states Kale is high in Oxalates but this doesn’t seem to match other sources.

However, Kale, like most other cabbages and indeed green leafed plants, does contain an enzyme called myrosinase which is involved in the breakdown of glucosinolates into Thyroid inhibiting compounds collectively known as Goitrins. Myrosinase is helped in this process by Vitamin C – which in the case of Kale is quite high. So while the Vitamin C is useful, the fact that it helps myrosinase to produce Goitrogens is, in the case of Kale, something of a disadvantage.

There is however, very limited research in the use of raw Kale as a bearded dragon foodstuff and as Kale used in human dishes is almost always cooked (which deactivates the myrosinase) there’s unlikely to be much research done on the actual effects. Nevertheless, the level of Vitamin C combined with the myrosinase leads us to still consider Kale as best offered occasionally rather than regularly.

In summary, oxalate concentration is not the main problem for Kale, it’s the goitrogenic effect that is the potential problem and requires further research to determine its safety profile.

Advantages Of Kale For Bearded Dragons

  • Great calcium levels
  • Long lasting when kept in the fridge
  • Can be good for gutloading locusts or crickets
  • Good for other minerals and vitamins too

Disadvantages Of Kale For Bearded Dragons

  • Likely to possess strong goitrogenic effects

How Should I Feed Kale To A Bearded Dragon?

Kale can be fed semi-regularly as part of a balanced salad diet. For the reasons listed above we don’t believe Kale should be fed regularly.

Kale can be bought in store these days, pre-washed and pre-chopped. It’s still quite considerably fibrous when bought this way and the store will often include large chunks of what is essentially stalk rather than leaf. It’s probably beneficial to remove these large lumps of stalk as they’re likely to be mostly indigestible and do pose a choking risk.

Kale can be added to a bearded dragon’s salad bowl and left in the vivarium throughout the day. It maintains it’s moisture content fairly well although it will start to look dried and shrivelled by the mid-afternoon if left in. You can either remove it or replace it at this point.

Kale, like all vegetables in the salad, can be dusted a couple of times a week with a good calcium powder to help improve the calcium intake for your bearded dragon.

How Much Kale Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?

Our opinion is that Kale can be fed a couple of times a week as part of a balanced salad diet. We must emphasise though that more research is needed into the actual goitrogenic effect of Kale on bearded dragons, since there is little evidence of any actual harm.

We have extrapolated this advice based on the nutritional data available (see below) coupled with other studies into the effects of the myrosinase enzyme on humans who’ve consumed large quantities of Bok Choy. The data does not indicate how much myrosinase is available in Kale versus Bok Choy – but other literature states that Vitamin C is a cofactor for myrosinase and Kale contains nearly 30 times as much Vitamin C as Bok Choy does – leading us to surmise that it probably contains considerably more myrosinase too.

So, until further studies are done on the goitrogenic effect of Kale on bearded dragons (or at least reptiles in general) on the question of ‘can bearded dragons eat kale?’ – we recommend Kale on a semi-regular basis, not every day.

Note that this decision is made on the basis of the potential goitrogenic effect of Kale, not on its Oxalate profile (which is actually one of the best profiles in any of the green leafed vegetable).

Nutritional Data For Kale For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Water Content (%)89.6
Fat (%)1.49
Protein (%)2.92%
Dietary Fibre (%)4.1%
Calcium (mg/100g)254 (0.254%)
Potassium (mg/100g)348 (0.348%)
Phosphorous (mg/100g)55 (0.055%)
Vitamin A (ug/100g)241
Vitamin C (ug/100g)93.4
Oxalates (mg/100g)20 (Low)
Nutritional Data For Kale For Bearded Dragons [1][2][4]

Can I Grow My Own Kale?

Kale is relatively easy to grow in your own garden and has a higher tolerance for colder climates than some of the other cabbage family. It’s a good source of various nutritional compounds and can be used in human foods as well as bearded dragons.

Kale has few natural pests and diseases, though birds will often take a liking to it and so it should be netted if it’s grown outdoors[3]. Caterpillars can also be a problem like many of the cabbage family but fine mesh net can help reduce this.

Seeds are available from the Royal Horticultural Society or of course from Amazon.

Summary

Despite the amount of online bearded dragon literature which states that Kale is high in oxalates and should be avoided, this has been shown to not be true at all. In this regard, Kale is an excellent source of calcium and lower oxalate content than many of the other leafy green vegetables. But it’s potential to create Thyroid issues and therefore other metabolic imbalances that need further study, we still say that Kale should only be given on a semi-regular basis, not regularly.

Frequency: SEMI-REGULAR.

For more information on other vegetables that Bearded Dragons can eat, please see our larger overview post at ‘What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat?’

References

1: US Department of Agriculture FoodData Central. Fetched on 6th February 2021 from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103126/nutrients

2: Oxalate data sourced from St Josephs Healthcare, Hamilton, Canada fetched on 1st February 2021 from https://www.stjoes.ca/patients-visitors/patient-education/patient-education-k-o/pd-9447-oxalate-in-food.pdf

3: How To Grow Kale / RHS Gardening. Fetched on 15 May 2021 from https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/kale

4: Oxalate (oxalic acid) content of 750+ foods, with numbers from university and government sources – sourced from https://oxalate.org/ on 15th May 2021.

Featured Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

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