Broccoli has a reputation as a superfood. Health bloggers all over the world are constantly posting pictures of their chicken and broccoli lunches, after all. It’s no surprise that you might want to share this healthy green veg with your mischief.
Can rats eat broccoli and is it safe for them? Is broccoli best fed raw or cooked?
Not only is broccoli safe for rats, but it’s also very good for them. Since it boasts a low calorie count, it’s also a perfect choice for overweight rats. Cooking broccoli before offering it to your pet rat will improve its digestibility.
We’ve summarized all the benefits of broccoli and how to feed it to your pet rats below.
Can You Feed Broccoli to Your Pet Rat?
Is Broccoli Good for Rats?
Broccoli consists mainly of water (89%)1. There is basically no fat in broccoli, and negligible amounts of protein. About 9% of any serving of broccoli is made up of carbohydrates, and the calorie count is very low1.
Dietary fiber derived from broccoli can boost gut health and have a positive effect on the microbiome in the digestive tract2,3.
On a micronutrient level, broccoli’s profile is quite impressive, too. It is quite rich in vitamin C, an important vitamin for the function of the immune system, skin health, and to combat inflammation4.
Another vitamin that is plentiful in broccoli is vitamin K1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin K1 is required for blood clotting and has been shown to promote bone health5. Other important nutrients in broccoli include potassium, manganese, iron, and folate.
The reason that broccoli is considered a “superfood” is because of the many plant compounds and antioxidants it contains.
The list is impressive: Sulforaphanes, which have been shown to have a protective effect against various types of cancer6,7; kaempferol, known to be beneficial for heart health and act against inflammatory and cancerous processes8,9; quercetin, an antioxidant that prevents cancer10,11; and Indole-3-carbinol, which prevents chronic disease and cancer development12.
The compounds that cause broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables to taste bitter are actually incredibly healthy, too. They’ve been linked to cancer prevention and the promotion of cardiovascular health13.
These are all fantastic reasons to feed broccoli to your rats. Since rats tend to have a high tumor incidence, any food with such plentiful cancer-preventing phytonutrients should be a staple of their diet.
How Much Broccoli Can I Give My Rat?
As we all know, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli can cause bloating and gas if consumed in large amounts. The culprit is raffinose, a type of sugar that is fermented by certain flatulence-inducing bacteria in the gut14.
Some individuals are more sensitive to it than others, and you may notice how much broccoli your rats can tolerate by number of toots you hear the next day!
There are no antinutrients or unhealthy substances in broccoli, so your rats can eat as much of it as they like.
Broccoli can be fed daily or multiple times per week.
Broccoli is featured on the list of the “clean fifteen”, which contains produce that is generally low in pesticide residues. So, if you can’t afford to buy all organic vegetables, conventionally grown broccoli is the way to go.
Cooking broccoli helps make it more digestible, as this can break down the fiber and thus cause less bloating. Raw broccoli is fine to feed to your rats, too, but preferably in smaller quantities.
A study has shown that steaming broccoli improves it bile-acid binding capacity, which in turn helps lower cholesterol15. Of all cooking methods, steaming is also the one that results in the smallest loss of nutrient contents for broccoli16.
Can Rats Eat Cauliflower?
Cauliflower as another cruciferous vegetable is good for your rats, too. It can also have a gas-inducing effect, though, especially when fed raw.
What Vegetables Can Rats Eat?
Some should only ever be fed cooked, though. Vegetables that should not be offered raw include beans, artichokes, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.
To Sum Up
Broccoli is a wonderful food for rats, with many health benefits and few calories. You can feed it to your mischief daily, if they like it.
To improve digestibility, it’s better to feed it cooked. Steaming is the most beneficial cooking method for broccoli. If you can’t afford organic broccoli, conventional is absolutely fine.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Broccoli, raw. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/747447/nutrients.
2. Bourquin LD, Titgemeyer EC, Fahey GC, Jr. Vegetable fiber fermentation by human fecal bacteria: cell wall polysaccharide disappearance and short-chain fatty acid production during in vitro fermentation and water-holding capacity of unfermented residues. J Nutr 1993;123:860-869. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8387579/.
3. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis Jr RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews 2009;67:188-205. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
4. Shaik-Dasthagirisaheb YB, Varvara G, Murmura G, et al. Role of vitamins D, E and C in immunity and inflammation. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents 2013;27:291-295. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23830380/.
5. Bügel S. Vitamin K and bone health. Proc Nutr Soc 2003;62:839-843. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15018483/.
6. Dinkova-Kostova AT, Kostov RV. Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in health and disease. Trends Mol Med 2012;18:337-347. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22578879/.
7. Zhang Y, Tang L. Discovery and development of sulforaphane as a cancer chemopreventive phytochemical. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2007;28:1343-1354. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17723168/.
8. Chen AY, Chen YC. A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. Food Chem 2013;138:2099-2107. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23497863/.
9. Calderón-Montaño JM, Burgos-Morón E, Pérez-Guerrero C, et al. A review on the dietary flavonoid kaempferol. Mini Rev Med Chem 2011;11:298-344. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21428901/.
10. Stewart LK, Soileau JL, Ribnicky D, et al. Quercetin transiently increases energy expenditure but persistently decreases circulating markers of inflammation in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. Metabolism 2008;57:S39-46. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18555853/.
11. Murakami A, Ashida H, Terao J. Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin. Cancer Lett 2008;269:315-325. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18467024/.
12. Licznerska B, Baer-Dubowska W. Indole-3-Carbinol and Its Role in Chronic Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol 2016;928:131-154. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27671815/.
13. Drewnowski A, Gomez-Carneros C. Bitter taste, phytonutrients, and the consumer: a review. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:1424-1435. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11101467/.
14. Mao B, Tang H, Gu J, et al. In vitro fermentation of raffinose by the human gut bacteria. Food Funct 2018;9:5824-5831. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30357216/.
15. Kahlon TS, Chiu MC, Chapman MH. Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage. Nutr Res 2008;28:351-357. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19083431/.
16. Yuan GF, Sun B, Yuan J, et al. Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B 2009;10:580-588. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19650196/.
Nina has a degree from the Veterinary School in Zurich, with a special focus on microbiological research. Nina has a passion for sports, nutrition and the outdoors and she loves all pets, but rats have a special place in her heart. When she’s not working or reading and writing about all things related to pet health, she loves to travel and surf.
As a small animal veterinarian, Nina is your go-to expert on pet health and nutrition.