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Bearded Dragon Diet | Bearded Dragon Vegetables

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?

About 6 min reading time

Contrary to many popular myths on the Internet, bearded dragons can eat spinach – however it should only be fed very sparingly as it contains very high levels of oxalate compounds which binds calcium in the gut, and can also lead to kidney complications in high doses.

A couple of spinach leaves here and there is not a cause for concern. Spinach is not poisonous like Rhubarb is, but too much of it will end up with problems developing for your bearded dragon. Kidney stones and Metabolic Bone Disease are the two most common outcomes of too much spinach. We’ll look deeper in this post.

What Is Spinach For Bearded Dragons?

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable which originated in Persia. It’s considered by many to be a very healthy foodstuff as it is high in calcium and has plenty of anti-oxidant qualities too. It can be eaten raw or cooked, but if eaten raw then care must be taken not to have too much in the diet as it has a very high oxalate content which, for people with kidney issues, can cause problems. Spinach also contains high levels of iron which is excellent for the blood, but unfortunately, it also contains high levels of chemicals which inhibit the uptake of the iron too. Spinach contains very high levels of Vitamin K as well, which is responsible for blood clotting. For humans who are on anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) medications this can be an issue as it reduces the effectiveness of the medication.

In other words, spinach is touted as a super food, because of the high levels of these essential nutrients and is often available in salads. But the reality is, raw spinach doesn’t actually allow access to most of these wonderful nutrients. It’s best if it’s lightly steamed to deconstruct the oxalates but keep the calcium and the iron content.

China accounts for around 90 percent of the world’s supply of spinach.

Spinach is readily available in almost every supermarket greengrocery section. And of course, Spinach is also seen as making one strong and healthy due to the Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon character who consumed tins of spinach to increase his strength.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?

Many many people online will tell you that bearded dragons must not eat spinach. This is not true. However, it is true to say that due to the high level of oxalate content in spinach, bearded dragons should not eat much of it.

It is not a drama if your bearded dragon consumes a couple of leaves during a salad meal, provided that the meal has plenty of other vegetables with it. That is to say, spinach is not poisonous to your bearded dragon and you do not need to see a vet if they ate some today or yesterday. But, spinach should not be given regularly, especially raw as the long term effects will outweigh any benefits.

We see people online claiming that a bearded dragon would need to consume 10 times its own weight in spinach to see any undesirable effect. This is patently not true. Raw spinach is not good for bearded dragons and shouldn’t be fed regularly – despite the appeal of the high calcium level.

The oxalates in spinach bind to calcium in the gut and render it non-absorbable. The problem is that the very high levels of oxalate in spinach also bind to calcium from other food sources in the gut too, leaving your bearded dragon with less calcium available to digest and use than if they hadn’t eaten the spinach. The USDA states that spinach contains 970mg of oxalate per 100g of spinach. That’s almost 1% of spinach is oxalate content. Compare that to the next highest dietary item for bearded dragons that’s controversial – Kale. Kale has 20mg per 100g of spinach. That’s 0.02% or FIFTY times less. And people say Kale should be avoided because of oxalate!

You Could Try Steaming The Spinach Though

If you do want to feed Spinach to your bearded dragon, then steaming it breaks down a lot of the oxalate content and renders it inactive. This significantly reduces the harmful effects of the oxalates and allows the iron and calcium to be better absorbed. We’ve not tried feeding our bearded dragons on steamed spinach and can’t speak for how well they would enjoy it or not – but if you want to try let us know in the comments below how you fared!

Advantages Of Spinach For Bearded Dragons

  • Contain lots of moisture for helping hydration
  • High in Calcium and Iron

Disadvantages Of Spinach For Bearded Dragons

  • All that calcium and iron is negated by oxalate
  • High oxalate levels actually diminish calcium content of other parts of diet

How Should I Feed Spinach To A Bearded Dragon?

In a word, cooked.

If you feel you really must feed your bearded dragon spinach, then it is best to steam it before giving it. The steaming process inactivates much of the oxalate content and will therefore reduce its effects on the calcium and iron uptake.

How Much Spinach Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?

Minimal amounts of spinach are OK for a bearded dragon. It should never be fed deliberately but if it’s fed accidentally as part of a pre-purchased ‘mixed salad’ arrangement it won’t do any harm every so often if you miss one or two leaves when you’re removing them. Spinach does not do any short term harm. But spinach should not be fed regularly to a bearded dragon.

Nutritional Data For Spinach For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Water Content (%)92.4
Fat (%)0.6
Protein (%)2.91
Dietary Fibre (%)1.6
Carbohydrate (%)2.64 (low)
Calcium (mg/100g)67 (0.067%)
Potassium (mg/100g)460 (0.46%)
Phosphorous (mg/100g)41 (0.04%)
Vitamin A (ug/100g)306
Vitamin C (ug/100g)30
Oxalates (mg/100g)970 (Extreme)
Nutritional Data For Spinach For Bearded Dragons [1][2]

Can I Grow My Own Spinach?

Spinach can be grown all year round in temperate climates such as the UK, although the plants will need protection from snow and frost in the colder months. They’ll need watering during the drier months too.

The Royal Horticultural Society has some excellent advice for growing your own Spinach here.

Summary

In this post we’ve looked at whether bearded dragons can eat spinach and discovered why they shouldn’t be fed spinach regularly. We’ve uncovered the levels of oxalate that lead to this decision, and noted that the oxalate content of spinach is so high that it inhibits the absorption of calcium and iron from other vegetables too.

We’ve noted that in small amounts, spinach is not harmful to your bearded dragon in the short term so there is no need to panic if they’ve been fed some accidentally. But we’ve noted that the only recommended way to use spinach as a regular part of your bearded dragon’s diet is to steam it first. We’ve noted that we’ve never done this and would be interested to hear if anyone else has and whether their bearded dragon actually likes it.

Frequency: VERY VERY RARELY unless steamed.

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 14th September 2021 from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1750353/nutrients

2: Oxalate (oxalic acid) content of 750+ foods, with numbers from university and government sources – sourced from https://oxalate.org/ on 14th September 2021.

Featured Image by Reinhard Thrainer from Pixabay

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