Well-balanced nutrition is a key component for any animal, especially your delicate bearded dragon, so they can properly thrive, grow and develop. When it comes to proper nutrition for your bearded dragon you may question whether or not kale is good for your little companion considering it is such a super food for humans.
However, just because kale is a super food for humans, does that mean it is a healthy option for your beloved bearded dragon?
Kale is packed with vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, which is a vital part of your bearded dragon’s nutrition. With its high calcium levels, low phosphorus and oxalate levels, and a decent amount of water content, kale can easily become a staple food item for your bearded dragon.
There are often a few misconceptions surrounding the use of kale when it comes to the diet of bearded dragons that lists kale as a leafy green that either should not be served at all to bearded dragons or should only be served in small amounts on rare occasion, but that is due to the rumor that kale is high in oxalates, a compound which binds to calcium and prevents its proper absorption into the body.
It is important to understand that all vegetation has some level of oxalates in its make-up and while you do not want to give your bearded dragon anything that may cause him or her to not be able to absorb calcium properly, kale should not be on that list.
Reason 1: High In Calcium
Bearded dragons require large amounts of calcium in order to thrive and prevent a deadly and painful disease known as Metabolic Bone Disease. Kale contains around 250 mg of calcium per 100 g and is more than appropriate to offer to your bearded dragon.
It is important to note that although kale is high in calcium, you should still offer your bearded dragon calcium supplements to ensure they are receiving the appropriate amount to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease. When compared to other leafy greens, kale offers a hefty amount of calcium, making it a perfect addition to your bearded dragon’s salad.
A side by side comparison per 100 g of other leafy greens will show that kale has an overall higher calcium content which makes it a perfect source for a calcium rich diet:
- Swiss Chard: contains around 50 mg of calcium per 100 g of swiss chard
- Bok Choy: contains around 100 mg of calcium per 100 g of bok choy
- Mustard Greens: contains around 115 mg of calcium per 100 g of mustard greens
- Dandelion Greens: contains around 185 mg of calcium per 100 g of dandelion greens
- Kale: contains around 250 mg of calcium per 100 g of kale
Due to their extreme need for calcium, kale will make a great addition to any bearded dragon’s diet. Although kale is high in calcium, you should still be offering a calcium supplement powder several times a week to ensure your bearded dragon does not fall victim to Metabolic Bone Disease.
If you are concerned about how your bearded dragon will take to kale, try offering it in small quantities at first and gradually increase it to where you want him or her to be.
Reason 2: Low In Oxalates
Despite the all of the misleading information surrounding kale and bearded dragons, it is actually a leafy green with one of the lowest oxalate levels, which only adds to its benefit for your bearded dragon, as high oxalate levels will cause your bearded dragon to not be able to properly absorb calcium. Considering the fact that many plants contain this compound let’s take a look a side by side comparison of the oxalate levels in some popular leafy greens for bearded dragons:
- Kale: contains around 20 mg of oxalates per 100 g of kale
- Turnip greens: contains around 50 mg of oxalates per 100 g of turnip greens
- Mustard greens: contains around 125 mg of oxalates per 100 g of mustard greens
- Watercress: contains around 300 mg of oxalates per 100 g of watercress
- Spinach: contains around 970 mg of oxalates per 100 g of spinach, not recommended for bearded dragons
Due to the absolute fact that bearded dragons require a calcium rich diet, it is important to serve them food items that are low in oxalates. Oxalates bind to calcium, rendering it impossible to absorb and ultimately resulting in dangerously low calcium levels which can turn into Metabolic Bone Disease in your bearded dragon.
Reason 3: Low In Sugar
Another great benefit that kale offers is that it is low in sugar. Just like with humans, bearded dragons can acquire and suffer from many health problems from ingesting too much sugar, including but may not be limited to:
- Digestive issues
- Excessive weight gain
- Tooth decay
- High blood sugar
By ensuring that you are feeding your bearded dragon foods that are low in sugar, like kale, you are ensuring they do not endure any of the above issues and you are keeping them happy and healthy. Although these issues are rare for bearded dragons to contract, it is still a possibility if you are not being careful with what you are feeding your bearded dragon.
Offering kale can be done with confidence knowing that it is low in sugars that can cause these issues.
How Often-Daily, Frequently, or Sparingly:
Since we have discussed the misconception that kale is high in oxalates you may be wondering if it can be given to your bearded dragon daily. Unlike lettuce, kale is high in calcium, low in oxalates, and low in sugar, it is perfectly acceptable to offer this leafy green to your bearded dragon daily as a part of a well-balanced diet.
However, offering your bearded dragon a wide range of vegetation will ensure they are receiving all of the vitamins and nutrients they need in order to properly thrive and it ensures they are consuming a balanced diet which is necessary for any animal’s health and well-being.
If you are concerned that feeding your bearded dragon the same leafy green every day is not allowing your bearded dragon the opportunity to ingest all of the appropriate vitamins and nutrients they could benefit from, try providing a mix with a range of greens daily with larger amounts of kale 2 to 3 days a week.
How To Prepare Kale For Consumption:
Proper preparation of any vegetable for your bearded dragon should always be performed to minimize any chance of bacterial transfer to your bearded dragon which could ultimately result in illness for your beloved companion. Obviously, you are not going to cook the kale before serving it to your bearded dragon, so how do you prepare this leafy green?
It is a very simple process. First start by purchasing the freshest kale you can find; organic is always preferred since it will be free of any pesticides and/or herbicides that can cause harm to your bearded dragon and their health.
Before offering the kale, be sure to thoroughly wash the vegetable to rid it of any dirt or bacteria that cause your bearded dragon to become ill if consumed. It is also extremely important to remember to never offer your bearded dragon any food that is larger than the space between their eyes as they can easily choke or become impacted, so always chop the kale up into small pieces before serving it to your bearded dragon.
Providing your bearded dragon with the proper nutrition and vitamins they require to thrive and live their healthiest life is the most important part of owning and caring for a bearded dragon. They have delicate digestive systems and require an extensive amount of calcium and the food items you choose for them will determine if they are susceptible to any diseases or illnesses, which can and will affect their overall quality of life.
Kale is a fantastic source of calcium for your bearded dragon, which can help in the prevention of Metabolic Bone Disease, an extremely painful and deadly disease that affects bearded dragons with insufficient calcium levels. Understanding that certain foods can be high in oxalates and phosphorus, which bind to calcium causing the body to be unable to absorb it, you can be better prepared when it comes to offering your bearded dragon appropriate types of vegetation.
Kale is not only high in calcium but it is also low in oxalates and in sugar which adds to the beneficial aspect of kale, making it a perfect salad addition for your bearded dragon. It is also important to remember that an adult bearded dragon requires a diet consisting of 70 to 80 percent vegetation and 20 to 30 percent insects.
If you are ever concerned about the health and well-being of your bearded dragon and their diet, contact your local herp vet for any advice and tips to ensure you are providing the most appropriate diet possible for your bearded dragon.