One of your primary considerations as a bearded dragon owner is what you can and cannot feed them. But what about spinach? Is this green leafy vegetable safe and even healthy for a bearded dragon and should you be looking to offer it? If so how much? With these questions in mind, I decided to do some research into this particular food source. I’d like to share my findings with you here today.
So, can bearded dragons eat spinach? Bearded dragons can eat spinach and you can look to offer it to them. However, you should only feed this green leafy vegetable in moderation and in small servings at a time. While there are many nutrients in spinach, it is also high in a compound called Oxalates. In excess, these can cause issues for your bearded dragon as they are known to bind to calcium and other important minerals considered important for the health of a reptile.
Spinach is routinely cited as a superfood for us humans. However, as an owner of an exotic pet we must consider that their needs, requirements and preferences differ.
So, even though we can leverage many health benefits from particular foods – the same cannot always be said for your bearded dragon. Spinach is one such example. Moderation is key.
Let us now take a closer look at the nutritional profile of spinach, the benefits it can provide to your beardie along with the reasons why less is more.
- 1 Nutritional Requirements of Bearded Dragons
- 2 Nutritional Content of Spinach
- 3 Should Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?
- 4 The Benefits of Spinach For Your Bearded Dragons
- 5 The Risks Of Feeding Spinach To Your Bearded Dragon
- 6 How Much Spinach To Feed Your Bearded Dragon
- 7 How To Offer Spinach To Your Bearded Dragon
- 8 Other Treats/Foods To Offer
- 9 Finally
Nutritional Requirements of Bearded Dragons
Bearded Dragons are omnivorous; meaning that they eat a combination of both plant and animal based foods (primarily insects in their natural habitat).
For a bearded dragon, food has been generally sparse in the wild, so they have evolved to be able to extract nutrition from a range of different foods.
That being said, it is widely accepted that bearded dragons do best on a diet of equal parts; 50% plant matter and 50% animal matter. They actually start out in life more carnivorous and develop a preference for plant matter as they age.
The majority of plant matter (80-90%) should be vegetables and flowers, with only 10-20% should be fruits.
Bearded dragons have a number of nutritional requirements that they need to meet in order to grow appropriately and remain healthy.
Vitamins and minerals play an important role in a hole host of biological functions so it is important that they acquire what they need from their diet and environment.
For a bearded dragon, some of the most important are:
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin A
- Minor amounts of other B-Vitamins
Of course, beardies have different vitamin and mineral needs to us humans. So, it is important to ensure that they get these vitamins and minerals in the appropriate amounts. Diet variety is therefore very important.
Nutritional Content of Spinach
So, we now know that a bearded dragon should be getting 50% of their diet in the form of plant matter. Of that, 80-90% should be vegetables.
So, why would spinach be a contender as a food source? Why would owners consider offering it and what nutrition can it provide?
First and foremost, it is low in water, energy, protein, fat and carbohydrates. It also carries a good amount of fiber too which is important for beardies.
Here is the breakdown for 28 grams of spinach (5-10 leaves on average) or a cup:
So we can see that spinach does not offer too much energy, which is of course a good thing to prevent excess weight gain.
But what about the nutrients and vitamins in a cup (28g of spinach)?
|Vitamin A||2813 IU|
|Vitamin K||145 mcg|
|Vitamin C||8.4 mg|
As you can see, spinach does contain decent amounts of Calcium, Vitamin A, Iron and some other B-Vitamins. Even in a small serving size. All of which a beardie needs in their diet.
Should Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?
Knowing that spinach is plant and vegetable matter, along with the variety of vitamins and minerals, it appears that this is an ideal food source.
However, veterinarians and reptile experts recommend that you should only feed spinach to your bearded dragon in moderation.
Moderation simply means more sparingly, in small and portion controlled amounts. This could be a very small handful (every 3-4 weeks).
Spinach is safe in small amounts, when given infrequently, and there are benefits in doing this. Let us now look at why spinach can have a place in your bearded dragons diet before turning to why less is considered more with this food.
The Benefits of Spinach For Your Bearded Dragons
As you will see above, spinach does tick a lot of boxes.
Firstly, for plant matter it is relatively high in protein – with almost 1g of protein in a 30g serving (which is only a small handful of leaves). Protein is important for bearded dragons, and this can be a good way to help boost their intake along with the provision of insects.
Spinach also has quite a lot calcium, whilst being simultaneously low in phosphorus. This ratio is very important for bearded dragons and they need to keep it closely aligned for optimal health. The ratio should be 1:1, or 2:1 (calcium to phosphorous). As you can imagine this can be quite hard to monitor and control in your beardies diet. Thankfully, foods like spinach take this complexity away from us.
Spinach does also not have much sugar, which will help to prevent issues with tooth decay and other bacteria that can build up in the mouth.
As you will see above, potassium, iron and folate are also present and all help to serve your bearded dragons health.
From an owners perspective, spinach is also easy to purchase, prepare and obtain. Its also very versatile and can be mixed in with other foods and pairs well with them.
So, it appears that spinach is the dream food for bearded dragons. However, there is one big issue that prevents it from being a suitable staple.
So why does spinach consumption need to be monitored and controlled? Let us now take a closer look at why this is.
The Risks Of Feeding Spinach To Your Bearded Dragon
With all the benefits going for it, spinach is also naturally high in a compound that can cause a lot of issues in bearded dragons, and all other reptiles for that matter.
This compound is called Oxalic Acid (Oxalates) and it can be very problematic for a reptile when consumed in excess.
Oxalates are known to bind to calcium and other trace minerals, preventing their absorption. This essentially prevents them from being able to use these important and imperative nutrients/minerals.
For this reason, if oxalates are consumed in excess, they can lead to nutrient deficiencies in your bearded dragon.
If a beardie was to be fed spinach too regularly (like daily), it can stop them from being able to access and use the calcium they get from across the diet. And we all know how important calcium is for the health of a beardie.
A deficiency in calcium can even lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD) and other physical ailments.
So there is a fine margin; its all about balance where your bearded dragon can increase their vitamin/mineral reserves without depleting them.
Unfortunately, trying to provide enough calcium through diet alone is incredibly challenging.
This is why it is regularly recommended by reptile experts and vets that you should always add and use a calcium supplement. This is perhaps the best one you can get on Amazon.
And, it is not just spinach that poses this risk.
You need to be especially careful of Swiss Chard and Beet Greens as these also contain high levels of oxalates.
As you can imagine, without being aware of all the vegetables and what they contain – you can easily be providing a high level of oxalates accidentally.
How Much Spinach To Feed Your Bearded Dragon
Spinach should never make up a significant proportion of your bearded dragons diet. As mentioned throughout this article, it should be fed in infrequently and in moderation.
So, this means that you should be offering it daily.
It is generally recommended to offer a small serving (28grams or several leaves) every 3-4 weeks. Be sure to mix it in with other safe vegetables rather than as a standalone meal.
As referenced above, while the oxalate component can pose a risk – this is when it is overfed. So, exercise some caution and look to offer it less frequently.
Ultimately, it is safe and can provide some benefit – it should not causes issues or pose any risks when offered in appropriate amounts.
How To Offer Spinach To Your Bearded Dragon
When it comes to spinach, and any vegetable for that matter, you should always look to source the best quality that you can afford.
Organic is preferable as it will not contain any herbicides or pesticides.
Always buy and offer spinach fresh and never offer it to your beardie if it has spoiled. Equally, you should not to cook the spinach prior to feeding, or ever offer it frozen.
From there, you should look to wash fresh spinach with plain water – this will remove any dirt that may still remain.
You can look to chop it into smaller, more manageable pieces, although this is not actually required for the most part.
A good way to offer spinach is mixed in with some other healthy vegetables. You can add them all to a bowl to make it easy for your bearded dragon to eat. Be careful as some bowls are not very accessible for beardies and they can struggle to get to the bottom where food may remain.
A good, nutritious salad example would be a small selection of each of the following vegetables:
- Turnip Greens
- Green Beans
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
Other Treats/Foods To Offer
If you want to increase the nutritional density of your bearded dragons diet, while offering them a treat simultaneously, then you can look to offer the following foods (as recommended by the School of Veterinary Medicine).
- Cantaloupe Melon,
- Bell Peppers
- Celery Stalks
- Green Peas
All of these can be enjoyed and do contain a good amount of nutrition. Fruits should never make up more than 10-20% of your beardies diet but are great to offer from time to time.
Bearded dragons can eat spinach; albeit in moderation and in appropriate amounts.
If you feed it infrequently, it does come with a range of vitamins and minerals that promote the health of a bearded dragon .
The key is in keeping balance. So that vitamins and minerals are added to the diet and not taken away through the problematic compound oxalates.
Lastly, spinach is not unique in being a potentially dangerous food. You should also exercise caution with: cabbage, kale and mustard greens. These are high in goitrogens and can suppress the thyroid gland in your beardie (organ that regulates metabolism) if again, given in excess.