Lamb Meat – A Protein and Iron Powerhouse
The soft red meat of lamb has a rich nutritional profile that accounts for its varied health benefits. Find out more in this article.
Lamb is the meat of domesticated sheep less than a year old and is one of the most versatile red meats. Lamb meat has much more iron than other protein sources like fish and chicken. In addition, it contains heme iron rather than the non-heme iron found in plants. Heme iron in lamb meat is more absorbable and can help prevent iron deficiency and anaemia symptoms. Although lamb contains saturated fat, nearly 65% of its total fat represents monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. These are the healthier types of fat.
The tender red meat of lamb has a rich, dense taste that can turn mildly savoury depending on gravy. Raw lamb appears soft pink to a deep red colour. Once thoroughly cooked, it becomes a rich reddish-brown shade. However, medium-rare lamb meat has a pinkish hue at the centre. While lamb receives most of its attention due to its buttery quality, grass-fed lamb also shows some unique health benefits. But, like other red meat, lamb does contain a significant amount of cholesterol. Therefore, the portion size plays a role in the eventual nutrient quality of the lamb.
Nutritional Profile of Lamb
As per USDA, 100 grams of raw, ground lamb contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 242 kcal
- Fats: 23.4 g
- Protein: 16.6 g
- Calcium: 16 mg
- Iron: 1.55 mg
The HealthifyMe Note
Lamb has a rich nutritional profile responsible for its various health benefits. It is high in calories and fats but has no carbohydrates. However, it is rich in multiple essential minerals and vitamins. The most significant nutritional benefit of lamb is its high protein content.
Varieties of Lamb
- Milk-fed lamb: Meat from milk-fed lamb is typically 4–6 weeks old and weighs around 5.5–8 kg. This type of lamb is unavailable in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The texture and flavour of milk-fed lamb, when grilled or roasted, are generally more delicate than that of older lamb and are high in price. It is typically available in northern Spain, including Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and Leon, and La Rioja.
- Young lamb is milk-fed lamb meat under six and eight weeks old.
- Spring lamb is a milk-fed lamb three to five months old. This lamb is generally born in late winter or early spring and sold before 1 July.
- Sucker lambs: This type of lambs includes young milk-fed lambs and slightly older ones up to about seven months of age. These lambs have weights between 14 and 30 kg.
The HealthifyMe Note
The lamb varieties also depend on the meat cuts. There are five basic cuts: shoulder, rack, breast, loin, and leg. Legs and racks are ideal for family dinners or large gatherings since they are large lamb portions. Lamb-cut varieties such as riblets, loin chops, and lean rib chops are better for individual servings. Rib and loin cuts are usually more expensive due to their tender and tastier meat.
Health Benefits Of Lamb Meat
Source of Protein
Lamb is one of the richest sources of easily digestible protein. Just 100 grams of lamb meat contains nearly 17 grams of protein. In addition, protein from lamb meat can be a slow-burning, sustainable fuel for your body. Lamb is a complete protein since it contains all nine essential amino acids. This high-quality protein is a significant source for maintaining muscle mass and strength, especially in older adults.
Studies show that red meat, like a lamb, is a protein-dense food that supports the growth, build, and repair of the body tissues and muscles. Therefore, including lamb meat in a regular diet with a healthy lifestyle and adequate exercise can help preserve muscle strength.
Lamb meat benefits bodybuilders, recovering athletes, and people post-surgery because it provides all the essential nine amino acids and fulfils the body’s protein requirements. Protein does so much for the body, but eat lamb meat in moderation and do not go overboard.
Low levels of red blood cells and decreased oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood lead to anaemia. In addition, iron deficiency is a significant cause of anaemia. Therefore, eating a proper iron-rich diet can help with anaemia. Since lamb is red meat, it is an animal source of iron. Moreover, eating one serving of lamb provides about 20% of the recommended daily value of iron.
Lamb not only contains heme-iron, a highly bioavailable form of iron, but it also improves the absorption of non-heme iron, the form of iron in plants. However, heme-iron is only available through animal-based foods. Thus, it’s often low in vegetarian diets. It is why vegetarians are more at risk of anaemia than those who eat meat.
Boost Your Immune System
Lamb is a good source of zinc. The immune-boosting zinc in one serving of lamb can meet 30% of your daily value. In addition, zinc supports the quick healing of wounds and growth and development in children. Numerous enzymes are dependent on zinc to support the immune system.
A Vitamin B-rich Meat
Lamb is an enriched source of vitamin B-12, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B3, and pantothenic acid. Moreover, eating one serving of lamb will provide half of most people’s daily B12 requirements. Studies suggest that vitamin B promotes cellular functioning and acts as a coenzyme in metabolic reactions.
Best Ways to Cook Lamb
The cooking method depends on your taste and the cut of lamb.
- For lamb chops, broil or grill your meat for about 9 to 12 minutes, flipping it halfway through.
- When cooking a leg of lamb, roast it in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It would help if you cooked all cuts of the lamb until it reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When making ground lamb, cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, you can add flavour to your lamb with meat marinades or rubs. You may also consider using ground lamb the next time you make meatloaf or meatballs.
It’s best to buy grass-fed and organic lamb meat to get the highest nutrient quality possible. The cuts from the leg or the loin are lower in fat. You can also trim all visible fat on any cut of lamb before cooking. For safety and quality, cook all lamb organs and other parts such as the heart, kidney, liver and tongue to 160°F.
Healthy Recipes Using Lamb
Lamb Chops with Mint Pan Sauce
Total Time: 40 Minutes
- Apple Juice: ⅓ cup
- Cornstarch: 1½ tsp
- Lamb Loin Chops: 8
- Kosher Salt: ½ tsp
- Freshly Ground Pepper: ½ tsp
- Oil: 1 tsp
- Shallot, Minced: 1
- Reduced-Sodium Beef Broth: ⅓ cup
- Cider Vinegar: 2 tbsp
- Mint Jelly: 2 tbsp
- Minced Fresh Mint: 2 tbsp
Method of Preparation
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add apple juice and cornstarch to a small bowl, combine them, and set aside.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on the lamb chops while heating oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the chops and cook them until browned on one side, for about 2 minutes. Then, transfer the pan to the oven to roast at 140 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
- Place the skillet over medium-high flame. Add shallot and cook, stir it constantly, until browned and softened, for about 1 minute. Add broth, vinegar and jelly and bring it to a boil; whisk to dissolve the jelly. Cook and constantly whisk until the liquid has reduced by half, for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir the cornstarch mixture. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and constantly stir while adding it. Bring the mixture to simmer until the sauce becomes thick. Turn off the heat and stir in half the mint with chops.
- Serve the chops hot and garnish with the remaining mint.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
- Calories: 197 kcal
- Protein: 19.9g
- Carbohydrates: 11.2 g
- Dietary fibre: 0.3 g
- Fat: 7.5 g
- Saturated fat: 2.3 g
- Cholesterol: 62 mg
Middle Eastern Lamb Stew
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
- Boneless Lamb meat: 680 g
- Olive oil: 1 tbsp
- Ground cumin: 4 tsp
- Ground coriander: 1 tbsp
- Cayenne pepper: ¼ tsp
- Freshly ground pepper: To taste
- Chopped Onions: One large or two medium
- Diced tomatoes: 793 g
- Reduced-sodium chicken broth: ¾ cup
- Garlic: 4 cloves
- Rinsed Chickpeas: 538 g
- Spinach: 170 g
Method of Preparation
- Place the lamb in a larger slow cooker: mix oil, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the lamb with the spice paste in the small bowl and toss it to coat well. Top it with onion.
- Over medium-low flame, bring tomatoes, broth and garlic to a simmer. Pour it over the lamb and onion. Cover and cook until the lamb is very tender, for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours on high flame or 5 1/2 to 6 hours on low flame.
- Mash ½ cup of chickpeas in a small bowl. Stir the mashed and whole chickpeas into the mixture, along with spinach. Cover and cook on high flame until the spinach is cooked, for about 5 minutes.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
- Calories: 253 kcal
- Protein: 19.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 12.4 g
- Dietary fibre: 4.6 g
- Fat: 14.2 g
- Saturated fat: 5.1 g
- Cholesterol: 58.8 mg
Storage Instructions for Lamb
Freezer or Refrigerator
You can store lamb in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on when you use it. For example, you must freeze the lamb if you’re not going to use it within a day. The correct temperature ought to be around 35° F. However, it should not be higher than 40° F. Ensure your freezer maintains a consistent temperature of 32° F or below. You can keep lamb cuts in a freezer for six to nine months.
Storing Leftover Lamb
Cooked lamb leftovers should be used within three days while stored inside the refrigerator. Before placing it in the fridge, cool the meat at room temperature. To maximise the shelf life of the cooked lamb, refrigerate the cooked lamb roast by wrapping tightly with heavy-duty aluminium foil or plastic wrap. Or you can keep it in shallow airtight containers.
Label the Date
Label the date on the day you’re freezing or refrigerating the lamb. In this manner, you will not be confused about how long it’s been frozen or refrigerated.
Potential Downsides of Lamb
Some people are allergic to lamb meat. Allergy symptoms can include vomiting or diarrhoea, shortness of breath, rash, or anaphylaxis. Talk to your doctor if you have an odd reaction or do not feel well after eating lamb.
Increases Heart Problem
Studies suggest that regularly eating lamb increases the risk of heart disease. People who have a diet rich in red meat have increased levels of a chemical linked to heart disease. In addition, high saturated fat in red meat contributes to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death.
Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is a chemical formed by gut bacteria during lamb digestion, and this chemical enhances the cholesterol deposits in the artery walls. It also interacts with platelets that are responsible for normal clotting responses. Hence, it increases the rate of clot-related diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Increases Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Studies show that people who consume lamb in a daily diet are prone to diseases like diabetes. In addition, the preservatives, additives and chemicals added during lamb meat processing can harm your pancreas and increase insulin resistance. As lamb is a source of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein, doctors say that frequent red meat consumption increases the risk of diabetes.
May Increase the Risk Of Cancer
Many observational studies show that people who have a lot of red meat in their diet are at an increased risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, studies say that high-temperature cooking of lamb meat and its heme-iron content might trigger the mutations for lung carcinoma.
The heterocyclic amines present in lamb rise in concentration due to overcooking. They increase the risk of various cancers in your body, such as colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
Lamb falls into the red meat category, consisting of all the essential amino acids your body requires for proper functioning. It is an abundant source of proteins necessary for muscle growth and strength. In addition, lamb is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium and many more. However, that does not mean eating any amount of lamb is good for your health. On the contrary, like any food, excess consumption of lamb leads to adverse health effects.
Frequently Asked Question(FAQs)
Q. Is lamb healthier than chicken?
A. Regarding saturated fat, lamb has higher unhealthy fats than chicken. High intakes of saturated fat increase blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. However, lamb contains more iron, zinc and vitamin B12 than chicken.
Q.What are the side effects of eating lamb?
A. There are some side effects of eating lamb, especially if you eat it in excess. Lamb meat is high in saturated fat. It can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Therefore, eating lamb in moderation is safe, but overeating will increase the overall cholesterol levels.
Q. Is lamb meat the healthiest?
A. Lamb can be the healthiest meat option since it contains more protein, zinc, and iron than other options. But that’s not all; lamb provides B-complex vitamins and selenium. It also offers the more absorbable heme iron to prevent iron deficiency and anaemia symptoms. However, it would be best to eat them in moderation to keep the fat intake in check.
Q. How is lamb meat good for you?
A. There are many ways to use and cook lamb meat to receive its benefits. The tender cuts of lamb meat offer vital proteins. It also helps your body to repair and maintain muscles. Lamb does contain fat, but leaner cuts also include sufficient iron and immune-boosting zinc. For those who want to build muscle, lamb meat is an ideal option.
Q. Is it OK to eat lamb every day?
A. No, you should not regularly eat lamb or add them to your daily diet. As mentioned, this red meat contains high levels of saturated fat. Therefore, overeating lamb in the daily diet will cause high cholesterol and hypertension.
Q.Is lamb high in iron?
A. Yes, lamb is iron-rich red meat. One serving of lamb equals 20% of the recommended daily value of iron. In addition, it contains heme iron rather than non-heme iron. The heme iron in lamb meat is more absorbable.
Q. Is lamb good for weight loss?
A. Grass-fed lamb meat might be good for weight loss. However, skinless poultry is the most favourable option for weight loss diets. Lamb contains cholesterol and high saturated fat, which is a concern.
Q. Is lamb good for digestion?
A. The proteins, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 in lamb significantly boost metabolism and speed up digestion. It also contains zinc which prevents your body from any digestive problems.
Q. Is lamb good for your liver?
A. No, lamb meat is not suitable for the liver as it consists of saturated fats. High levels of saturated fat cause fatty liver conditions. However, eating moderate amounts of lamb might not be a burden for the liver. But people with pre-existing liver conditions must be extra careful.
Q. Why should you not eat lamb?
A. Eating lamb on regular bases increases the risk of many diseases like heart attack and stroke. It may also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes due to the preservatives and chemicals in processed lamb. Nonetheless, the tender cuts of lamb meat are a good source of protein, iron, and zinc.