Last Updated on: 28th October 2023, 09:31 am
Vegetables should account for 5-10% of a parrot’s diet. Unfortunately, not all vegetables are safe to feed parrots because some contain harmful compounds or can only be eaten in small amounts.
For example, to avoid the risks posed by oxalates, which bind to minerals like calcium, provide a diverse range of vegetables so the parrot doesn’t eat the same food more than once or twice weekly.
Parrots can safely eat vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, butternut squash, asparagus, carrots, corn on the cob, artichoke, sweet potatoes, parsnip, peas, bamboo shoots, fava beans, endive, lettuce, green beans, dandelion greens, celery, Brussels sprouts, and fennel.
What Vegetables Are Good for Parrots?
If you choose suitable vegetables, a parrot can benefit from vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Let’s look at some of the healthiest vegetables for pet parrots:
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) contains anthocyanin and glutathione, which have antioxidant effects and reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Purple asparagus contains the most anthocyanins.
Insulin transportation is supported by chromium, which plays a vital role in blood sugar regulation.
It’s a good source of vitamin K, which is essential for blood coagulation and stopping bleeding.
The amino acid asparagine in asparagus is a natural diuretic that rids the body of excess sodium (salts). Asparagus also contains no fat, cholesterol, or sodium.
Asparagus contains Vitamin B12 (folate), which prevents anemia (fewer red blood cells than usual). This condition leads to low energy, tiredness, and feeling faint.
Unfortunately, asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which could cause a parrot’s waste to smell. However, the sulfuric compounds are non-harmful to pet birds.
The leaves and root of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) are safe for consumption. While the root has a sweet taste, the leaves are bitter-tasting, which may be unappealing to parrots.
Beetroot is a good source of folate (vitamin B9), which is essential for cell growth and functionality. Minimizing the damage caused to blood vessels reduces the risk of heart disease.
Beets are rich in nitrates, which assist with blood dilation. They also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties due to betalain (which is responsible for the red color).
Don’t be alarmed if beet consumption reddens the color of a parrot’s droppings. This is known as beeturia and is entirely harmless to animals, including birds.
Unfortunately, beets are high in oxalates, which bind to minerals like calcium (inhibiting absorption), causing kidney stones. So, consumption should be limited to one serving per week.
Bell peppers (capsicum annuum) are flowering plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).
The color of bell peppers (green, yellow, orange, or red) is based on their level of ripeness (the amount of time spent on the vine), with red being ripe and green being the least ripe.
The riper the bell pepper, the more polyphenols (lutein, quercetin, and capsanthin), beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and folate it contains. Red bell peppers are also sweeter-tasting.
Bell peppers’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (vitamins C, E, polyphenols, and beta-carotene) reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
According to the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, the polyphenols found in bell papers also aid the optimization of blood sugar levels, resulting in more stable energy levels.
Parrots can eat bell peppers cooked or raw, but cooking them breaks down the cells and releases carotenoids, making it easier for the body to absorb.
Hot peppers have an entirely different flavor and level of heat than bell peppers. However, according to Cell, parrots don’t have a receptor that can taste the heat in hot peppers.
Capsaicin is the compound that gives these vegetables their heat. It can relieve pain, lessen arthritis symptoms, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Hot peppers also contain the following essential nutrients:
- Vitamins A, B6, B9, C, and K1.
Hot peppers stimulate gastric juices, relieving gastric distress (ulcers, diarrhea, gas, cramping, etc.) However, overconsumption can cause stomach problems.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is from the Brassica family, which includes Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Broccoli is a good source of antioxidants like glucoraphanin. This compound is converted into an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which is linked to the following health benefits:
- Lowering blood sugar.
- Reducing oxidative stress.
- Less risk of chronic diseases.
Broccoli also contains other antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. The antioxidants, paired with its high fiber level, make broccoli healthy for a parrot’s digestion.
According to the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, fiber and antioxidants play a role in maintaining gut health because they promote good bacteria, reducing inflammation in the colon.
Unfortunately, broccoli is a goitrogen that contains thiocyanates, which can cause hyperthyroidism. This leads to health issues like fatigue and weight gain.
While technically a fruit, butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is considered a vegetable in the culinary world. This brightly colored vegetable has various health benefits.
The fiber found in butternut squash alleviates constipation, removes bad cholesterol from the bloodstream, and assists with energy regulation.
Butternut squash’s phytonutrients (zeaxanthin and lutein) are good for eye health. It’s also high in antioxidants (beta-carotene, lutein, and beta-carotene), essential for a robust immune system.
Butternut squash is low in calories but high in essential nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, and E, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, and iron.
Carrots (Daucus carota) are root vegetables from the Apiaceae family.
The high fiber content of carrots assists with blood sugar regulation, reducing tiredness and lethargy. When parrots have sustainable energy levels and feel full, they’re less likely to overeat.
Carrots contain carotenoids, about 80% of which are beta-carotene, which have the following benefits:
- Improved eye health.
- Linked to robust immune systems.
- Improves cell growth.
- An antioxidant that’s correlated to disease reduction.
Although carrots are healthy, avoid overfeeding them to a parrot because they can cause the skin to turn yellow (known as carotenemia).
Corn On The Cob
Corn cob (also called maize or Zea mays) is the corn ear after the kernels have been stripped away. Because it’s high in carbohydrates (natural sugars), corn on the cob is a good energy source.
Due to insoluble fiber, corn on the cob has a low glycemic index (GI) value, ensuring that energy release is more gradual and the blood sugar levels of parrots don’t spike.
Parrots will benefit from the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamins B3, B5, B6, and C.
According to the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, corn has higher levels of antioxidants than other common grains, including ferulic acid, anthocyanins, and lutein.
Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) are a root vegetable from the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots.
Parsnips are a good source of potassium, which is a vasodilator. This widens the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and less strain on the heart. Coupled with homocysteine, this reduces the risk of birds developing heart disease.
The soluble and insoluble fiber content of parsnips adds bulk to a parrot’s stool, meaning it’s less likely to become constipated or develop digestive disorders.
Parsnips contain many antioxidants, including vitamin C and polyacetylenes, aiding the immune system and reducing the risk of degenerative diseases.
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a leafy green vegetable from the amaranth family, related to beetroot. It has a slightly bitter, salty flavor due to the presence of oxalates.
Because spinach is high in oxalates, parrots should consume it no more than once weekly. Oxalates bind to minerals like calcium, preventing absorption and causing kidney stones.
Spinach is a good source of insoluble fiber, which absorbs water and softens the stool, reducing the risk of constipation. However, too much fiber can cause digestive distress (gassiness and stomach cramps).
It’s a good source of vitamins A, B9, C, calcium, and iron. Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin, which moves oxygenated blood around the body.
It also contains antioxidants, including lutein and kaempferol, for superior eye health and cognition.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are root vegetables from the family Morning Glory (Convolvulaceae). They’re not botanically related to potatoes, but they’re often confused.
They’re healthier than white potatoes due to beta-carotene, which gives them their color. This is an antioxidant that improves eye health and strengthens the immune system.
Sweet potatoes contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps the digestive tract moving. Also, plant sterols (phytosterols) may protect the digestive system from harm.
The flavor of sweet potatoes resembles carrots, so they’re very appealing to parrots.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is high in vitamin K, strengthening a parrot’s bones.
Due to its vitamin A content, this vegetable can enhance a parrot’s health and vision. Since lettuce is 95% water, it’ll also keep a parrot hydrated in warm weather.
Compared to other varieties, Iceberg lettuce contains fewer nutrients.
While parrots will never get too many calories from eating lettuce, overconsumption can lead to gas, bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea, but that applies to all vegetables.
Peas (Pisum sativum) are part of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family. They’re a legume, not a vegetable.
They’re a good source of iron, essential for creating red blood cells that move oxygen around the body.
Peas are among the best plant-based proteins, making them more filling than other vegetables. They contain 5 grams of fiber per 100 grams, making them essential for healthy digestion.
Peas have high antioxidant levels and contain saponins, which protect against certain cancers.
Bamboo (Bambusa) has a woody, earthy flavor that parrots enjoy. It’s safe for parrots but must be cooked (unless purchased canned) before serving to remove the poisonous compounds.
Bamboo is low in saturated fat and sugar but high in nutraceuticals (fiber) for digestive transit.
The shoots also contain phenolic compounds, which reduce free radicals and oxidative stress on the body.
Bamboo shoots are high in silica, increasing the skin’s hydroxyproline levels. This essential amino acid is necessary for collagen and elastin synthesis, resulting in healthy skin.
Parrots will also benefit from vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E and minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium, zinc, and manganese.
The high potassium and phosphorus content gives parrots strong bones and assists with fluid regulation. For example, bamboo shoots contain double the potassium content of bananas.
Endives (Cichorium endivia) are part of the chicory root family. They have a slightly bitter taste, but this is reduced when cooked.
According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, endives contain various antioxidants, including quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. These are essential for preventing the damage caused by free radicals, which causes chronic disease.
Endive (chicory) contains more vitamin K than most common vegetables, assisting with bone strength and reducing the risk of fractures.
Eating endive also leads to a healthier gut due to the high fiber content. Fiber ensures that waste moves smoothly through the gastrointestinal tract.
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable from the Brassicaceae family.
Cauliflower consumption will benefit parrots in the following ways:
- Improved heart health and reduced cancer risk due to its sulforaphane content.
- Balances hormone levels due to indole-3-carbinol (I3C).
- Protects cells from inflammatory damage due to glutathione.
- The high choline content will benefit the central nervous system.
Whether steamed, boiled, roasted, or raw, cauliflower is a nutritious vegetable for parrots.
Dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) contain the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
Dandelions contain many antioxidants, the most common of which are polyphenols and beta-carotene. These reduce the risk of diseases caused by inflammation.
Dandelion is a good source of inulin (a carbohydrate), which is vital for maintaining healthy gut bacteria levels in the digestive tract.
According to The Review of Diabetic Studies, dandelions have been linked to better liver health. In the study, dandelion extract was shown to reduce excess fat levels in the liver.
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea) belong to the Brassica family, which includes cabbage and kale.
Scientists believe the consumption of Brussels sprouts (and other cruciferous vegetables) protects against various life-threatening diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
As Brussels sprouts are high in sulfur, they maintain the integrity of the gut lining. The production of glutathione also prevents inflammatory damage and assists with detoxification.
Sprouts are a good source of antioxidants. According to Carcinogenesis, Brussels sprouts can decrease oxidative damage by 28% due to kaempferol.
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) are members of the thistle family.
Asparagus is rich in phytonutrients (apigenin, cynarin, silymarin, and luteolin), which assist with liver detoxification due to their diuretic properties.
Artichokes are a good source of dietary fiber, assisting with stomach bloating, flatulence, cramps, and digestive discomfort. If a parrot has diarrhea, the fiber can absorb excess liquid.
Artichoke improves digestion through fiber and inulin (which keeps gut bacteria healthy). If a parrot has digestive issues, artichokes reduce indigestion symptoms due to the cynarine.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae). It has a strong aniseed flavor, which some parrots enjoy.
Fennel has been used in medicine for centuries. Aside from magnesium and potassium, this vegetable contains antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids.
According to BioMed Research International, fennel essential oil has 87 volatile compounds, including:
- Rosmarinic acid.
Due to its low glycaemic index (GI) and high fiber content, fennel controls blood sugar levels.
Can Parrots Eat Raw Vegetables?
Parrots should usually eat raw vegetables because they better suit their digestive system. Also, parrots enjoy the texture of raw vegetables as they’ll remain crunchy, juicy, and easy to tear apart.
If you have a choice between feeding raw or cooked vegetables, it’s advisable to select raw. However, cooking certain vegetables can reduce oxalate levels and the number of nutrients.
Can Parrots Eat Cooked Vegetables?
Cooked vegetables won’t harm a parrot, provided other ingredients aren’t added. You should never fry a parrot’s food, nor should you sauté or bake it in oil, butter, or lard.
Can You Feed Parrots Frozen Vegetables?
Frozen vegetables can be more nutritious than fresh vegetables.
Nutrients are lost from a vegetable when harvested, and fresh vegetables take a while to arrive at supermarkets. Freezing stops the aging process, preventing nutrients from being lost.
Are Canned Vegetables Good for Parrots?
Canned vegetables are safe to feed to a parrot with certain caveats.
Some nutrients are lost during the canning process, and some vegetables are canned with added salt. Opt for labels that say ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added.’
Can Parrots Eat Dehydrated Vegetables?
The dehydration process doesn’t reduce the calorie or fiber content of vegetables.
Unfortunately, heat destroys certain vitamins, such as vitamin C. However, vitamin A is mainly unaffected by dehydration, but it’ll no longer be a good water source.
How To Get A Parrot To Eat Vegetables
Parrots can be picky eaters and aren’t always interested in eating vegetables. So, what can you do?
Offer Vegetables in The Morning
To introduce a new food, do so before breakfast, as wild birds forage first thing in the morning.
Although domesticated, this instinct will remain. So, offer the new vegetable before breakfast without other foods. Then, serve the parrot’s breakfast like you would usually.
Include Vegetables with Other Foods
If you want to give a parrot something new, it may not even realize it’s food. To help the parrot learn, introduce the vegetable alongside familiar foods.
Chop Up Vegetables
You can serve the new vegetable alongside a ‘chop’ of food. A ‘chop’ involves finely chopping the different vegetables so the parrot can’t pick out the bits it prefers.
Serve Vegetables in Different Forms
A parrot may dislike its preparation if it doesn’t eat the new vegetable. Serve it in new ways:
- Cook it.
- Serve it raw.
- Chop it into bigger/smaller pieces.
- Serve it cold.
- Serve it warm.
Eat Vegetables Yourself
The parrot will see you as a part of its flock. Naturally, it’ll want to eat what you’re eating. If all else fails, eat the vegetable in the parrot’s line of sight, which should pique its interest.