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Lamb Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Recipes, And More

Are you tempted to have some lamb chops for dinner tonight but wondering about its health risks? Lamb meat is known for its soft, tender, meaty texture, and rich velvety taste worldwide.

When consumed in moderation, organic and grass-fed lamb meat can prove to be an amazing protein source that offers a wide range of concentrated and health-boosting nutrients. Having said that, you must be aware of the impact of lamb meat consumption on your health and the environment as well. In this article, we delve deeper into lamb nutrition, its health benefits, potential health, and environmental concerns, and a few recipes to get you started.

What Is Lamb?

Lamb refers to the meat of domesticated sheep less than a year old. Meat from sheep older than a year is known as mutton. Lamb meat is more tender and flavorful when compared to mutton.

  • Classification

Lamb is classified as red meat because of its rich red color due to the high presence of the protein myoglobin (1). Myoglobin with its iron-rich non-protein component “heme” is known to bind to oxygen in the striated meat muscles. The more the myoglobin, the richer, more dense red, the meat is. Other red meats usually consumed are beef, pork, and veal.

  • Appearance

Raw lamb ranges in color from soft pink to deep red. The color of fresh lamb cuts looks clean and bright with some white fat running through or around it depending on the cut. On being completely cooked, lamb becomes a rich reddish-brown shade, or a pinkish hue at the center of the meat when it’s cooked until medium-rare.

  • Taste

Lamb has a rich, dense taste. Once it is well cooked, it is soft and tender and adds a gamey richness to the gravy. Lamb flavor can differ according to the meat cut you go for. It can range from being mildly savory to wild and gamey that might not be preferred by all. In case you are trying lamb for the first time, you might want to start with conventional, tastier cuts like rib or loin chops. You can also choose to opt for American lamb that tends to be milder in flavor than the New Zealand lamb.

  • Varieties

Lamb is usually found as five basic cuts at the supermarket or grocery store. They are:

  • Shoulder
  • Rack
  • Shank/breast
  • Loin
  • Leg

Legs and racks make for large lamb portions and are ideal choices for family dinners or large gatherings. Lamb cuts such as lean rib chops, loin chops, or riblets are better suited for individual portions. Rack/rib and loin cuts are usually more tender and tastier cuts of meat and hence, more expensive too. Shoulder or leg-cut portions might be cheaper and equally tender when cooked in the right way.

Lamb Nutrition Facts

Lamb is very nutrient-dense meat and an important source of protein, iron, and vitamins. As per the USDA, just 3 oz of cooked lamb meat contains more than 20gms of protein which is almost half the recommended daily intake for adults (2).

Protein 21.1 gm
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Total Lipid (Fat) 16.7 g
Total Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA) 6.9 g
Total Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) 7.07 g
Total Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) 1.19 g
Cholesterol 82.4 mg
Vitamin B-12 12 ¬Ķg
Vitamin B-6 0.14 mg
Iron 1.52 mg
Calcium 18.7 mg
Phosphorus 171 mg
Zinc 3.97 mg
Potassium 288 mg
Sodium 68.8 mg

Lamb being rich in protein is ideal for sportsmen and athletes and even for people following a low carb, moderate protein intake weight-loss diet (3). Apart from that, lamb is also a good source of important nutrients and minerals like calcium, zinc, and phosphorus that are important for your vital body functions, immune support, and bone health (4), (5). Lamb also contains a good portion of monounsaturated fatty acids that help reduce the levels of the bad “LDL” cholesterol preventing their buildup and associated risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (6).

Going further, let’s take a look at some of the key health benefits of lamb.

Health Benefits Of Lamb Meat

Lamb being nutrient-dense meat, provides us with certain important health benefits.

  • Excellent Source Of Iron

As lamb is red meat, it is richer in iron as compared to chicken or fish (2). Additionally, lamb being an animal source of iron, contains the more easily absorbable heme iron as compared to the non-heme iron found in plants. Hence, lamb meat may potentially help improve and prevent iron deficiency and anemia symptoms (7).

  • Immunity Booster

Lamb is a good source of immune-boosting zinc (2). Zinc is not only vital for your optimal immune health but also is instrumental in wound healing, DNA and protein synthesis, as well as growth and development in children. Your immune system tends to get weakened and doesn’t perform optimally when there’s a deficit of zinc. Lamb with its significant zinc content could potentially help balance the same keeping your immune system strong and functioning optimally (4), (8).

  • Rich Source Of Healthy Fats

A significant portion of fat found in grass-fed lamb meat is rich in healthy fats. It is an important source of the beneficial

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (9), (10)
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids help reduce bad LDL cholesterol (11).
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that aids weight loss, improves lean muscle mass, and could potentially help prevent cancer as per a few animal studies (12), (13).
  • Protein Powerhouse

Lamb is an important source of animal meat proteins. A 3 oz serving of cooked lamb meat contains over 21 grams of protein (2). Proteins are the building blocks of our body and are essential in the growth, build, and repair of our body tissues and muscles. Lamb meat provides you with all the essential nine amino acids fulfilling the protein requirements of your body (14).

If you want to add lamb to your diet and are concerned about its high saturated fat content, you should trim away the excess visible fat and use lean lamb meat each time. Let’s understand further if you should include lamb in your diet if you are looking to lose weight.

Weight Loss And Diets

Lamb is high in the natural trans-fat named conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Unlike synthetic trans-fats, these have actually been found to be beneficial in reducing body fat mass (15). In a study, obese people in the age group of 18-44 years, when given 3.2 g of CLA per day for 6 months, reported a reduction in body fat with no further weight gain unlike the group of placebo-administered individuals (16). With about 19 gm of CLA per gm of meat, lamb meat has a higher CLA content than pork or beef (17). Lamb lean meat can thus aid weight loss when consumed in moderation.

While lamb intake may seem beneficial with the above-mentioned insights, it is also important to understand the possible risks of the same.

Possible Risks Of Eating Lamb

Lamb, being red meat, comes with its share of health risks. Studies have found that a higher intake of red meat variants like lamb, beef, veal, pork, and mutton can increase your risk of chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. (18).

  • Cancer

People who eat red meat regularly have been shown to have an increased risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and a few others (19). Few other substances found in red meat might increase the potential cancer risk. One of these is heterocyclic amines. These are formed when meat is exposed to high heat and temperatures upon grilling, frying, baking, or barbeque (20).

Though more research is still warranted, given the above concerns, it is better to avoid overcooked and burned meat preparations. Hence, lamb exposed to and cooked under mild heat is preferably healthier and safe when consumed in moderation.

  • High Cholesterol And Coronary Heart Disease

Frequent consumption of fatty portions of red and processed meat has been often linked with an increase in blood cholesterol levels. Lamb, when cooked and consumed, delivers almost equal amounts of monounsaturated and saturated fats. While the former helps lower blood cholesterol levels, saturated fatty acids can increase them (21). A high intake of saturated fat can increase the levels of low-density protein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the body. LDL cholesterol tends to pile up in your arteries that might lead to clogged arteries and stroke (22).

While that is true, there are ways you can avoid that. Lamb might have saturated fat, but opting for a leaner cut of meat means you get less of it. Tenderloin, legs, or loin chops are good options for the same. Trimming off the excess fat lining the meat helps get rid of most of the visible fat (23), (24). Also cooking the meat in a healthy way like grilling, roasting, or baking with a drip tray beneath it makes sure the meat is as fat-free as possible.

  • Food-borne Illnesses

You should handle raw lamb carefully and prepare it properly to avoid any chances of food-borne illnesses like E.coli infections or salmonellosis (25). Raw lamb should be kept refrigerated and away from other foods to avoid any cross-contamination. Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling raw red meat.

Ground lamb and patties along with other muscle-meat portions and organ meat like liver, kidney, and brain, etc. should be cooked to a minimum of 160℉ to make sure they’re safe to consume. You should cook the lamb steaks, roasts, and chops to a minimum temperature of 145℉ (as measured with a food thermometer) and allow it to rest for 3-5 minutes before consumption to ensure its safety.

Apart from the above concerns of lamb intake regarding your health, there are certain significant consequences of frequent lamb meat intake on the environment as well. Let’s take a look at what they are:

Impact On The Environment

While consumption of lamb and other meat products has been deemed essential as a vital source of nutrients (iron, protein, and vitamins), the environmental impact of the same is also glaringly clear. While raising livestock and animal husbandry adds significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, these also affect the water footprint, water pollution, and availability (26).

In light of the above effects of consuming lamb and other meats on human health as well as on the planet as a whole, it becomes imperative to bring about changes in our lifestyle and dietary habits. While meat provides and compensates for important nutrients, you should have it in moderation and be mindful of the amount consumed, for the betterment of your health as well as to reduce its effect on global environmental health (27).

Having understood that, let’s now see how you can include lamb in your diet with these easy-to-make lamb recipes.

Lamb Recipes

One of the healthiest ways to cook lamb meat is to trim the excess fat and grill, boil, or roast it in the oven. Be careful not to overcook or burn the meat. Minced and ground lamb meat can be used to make lamb burgers, meatloaf, kebabs, or even stir-fries. Here, we have two amazing recipes to get you started.

1. Lamb Koftas

Lamb Koftas

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • Lamb mince – 500g
  • Cumin powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder – 2 teaspoons
  • Garlic cloves (crushed) -2
  • Mint (chopped) – 2 tablespoons
  • Oil for brushing

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients until well combined.
  2. Divide the mixture into eight balls, and roll each ball to an oval shape on a board with cupped hands.
  3. Thread the oval balls onto four metal skewers and apply oil with a brush.
  4. Heat a griddle pan until steaming hot. Keep the skewers on top and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Don’t turn them around repeatedly until the meat is well sealed.
  6. Season as per preference and serve with spiced yogurt and flatbreads.

2. Lamb Burger

Lamb Burger

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • Jalape√Īo (deseeded, sliced lengthwise) – 1
  • Red onion (medium, sliced)
  • Garlic clove (peeled) – 1
  • Lean lamb (minced) – 1 lb
  • Lean beef (ground) – 1lb
  • Raw aged sharp cheddar (small cubed) -½ cup
  • Sea salt -½ teaspoon
  • Cumin powder -½ teaspoon
  • Chili powder -½ teaspoon
  • Paprika (smoked) -¼ teaspoon
  • Dried oregano -1 teaspoon
  • Coconut oil -½ teaspoon

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse and finely chop the jalapeno, garlic, and onion.
  2. Add in the above mixture to minced lamb and ground beef in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the cheese and spices.
  4. Combine everything well using your hands.
  5. Divide and form the mixture into 8 patties.
  6. Leave them in the refrigerator for 15–20 minutes to make them firm.
  7. Take a large nonstick skillet and melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
  8. Slide in the patties and cook for 7–8 minutes on each side.
  9. They should become nicely browned and firm to touch.
  10. Layer a patty in between burger buns and assemble with your toppings of choice.

Summary

As we see from the lamb nutrition data above, it is rich in protein and is an important source of vitamins and minerals as well. Handling and cooking the lamb meat properly is essential to incorporate it into your diet. Being red meat, lamb comes with certain inherent health concerns. When consumed in moderation, you can avoid its potentially harmful effects on your health, and the health of the planet as well.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Myoglobin chemistry and meat color
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23190143/
  2. \’Lamb\’ \’Ground\’ \’Cooked\’ Broiled
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172544/nutrients
  3. Ketogenic Diet
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  4. Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function
    Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Labs/Pmc/Articles/Pmc5748737/
  5. \’The role of nutrients in bone health\’ from A to Z
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17092827/
  6. Monounsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol metabolism: implications for dietary recommendations
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2649645/
  7. Absorption of Heme Iron
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/9460807/
  8. Enhancing the Nutritional Value of Red Meat through Genetic and Feeding Strategies
    https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/10/4/872/htm
  9. Increasing Omega-3 Levels in Meat from Ruminants under Pasture-Based Systems
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/30209429/
  10. Enhanced Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Contents in Muscle and Edible Organs of Australian Prime Lambs Grazing Lucerne and Cocksfoot Pastures
    Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Labs/Pmc/Articles/Pmc6316222
  11. High-Monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Lower Both Plasma Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/10584045/
  12. Conjugated Linoleic Acid Supplementation for 1 Y Reduces Body Fat Mass in Healthy Overweight Humans
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/15159244/
  13. Conjugated Linoleic Acid As A Potential Protective Factor in Prevention of Breast Cancer
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/23475478/
  14. The Value Of The Lamb Meat In Human Nutrition
    http://www.ifrj.upm.edu.my/23%20(06)%202016/(33).pdf
  15. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (Cla): Good or Bad Trans Fat?
    Https://Www.Sciencedirect.Com/Science/Article/Abs/Pii/S0889157509000210
  16. The Role of Conjugated Linoleic Acid in Reducing Body Fat and Preventing Holiday Weight Gain
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/16924272/
  17. Conjugated Linoleic Acid in Meat and Meat Products: A Review
    Https://Www.Researchgate.Net/Publication/51776234_conjugated_linoleic_acid_in_meat_and_meat_products_a_review
  18. Potential Health Hazards of Eating Red Meat
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/27597529/
  19. Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat and Cancer Incidence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/34455534/
  20. \’Well-Done Meat Intake\’ \’Heterocyclic Amine Exposure\’ and Cancer Risk
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/19838915/
  21. The Dietary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease: Dietary Cholesterol and Fat
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/7465460/
  22. Diet for Stroke Prevention
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/30022800/
  23. Lean Meat and Heart Health
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/15927927/
  24. Reduction in Saturated Fat Intake for Cardiovascular Disease
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/32428300/
  25. Animals as sources of food-borne pathogens: A review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6116329/
  26. Meat Consumption: Which are the Current Global Risks? A Review of Recent (2010–2020) Evidences
    Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Labs/Pmc/Articles/Pmc7256495/
  27. The Effects of Meat Consumption on Global Health
    Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/30209430/

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