Anytime we add things to our diets or make significant changes, it’s best to check in from a nutritional perspective. So if you’re wondering if lamb is good for you, you’re in the right spot. we cover all the details — both good and bad.
Lamb is a type of red meat sourced from young sheep. It’s known for its mild and sweet taste and is typically taken from sheep less than a year old. Mutton is from older sheep, resulting in gamier and tougher meat.
Keep reading to see what macronutrients, benefits, and risks eating lamb has.
Is lamb good for you?
Nutritional science struggles to be definitive, but eating lamb in moderation alongside a balanced diet is almost certainly healthy. It is a lean, flavorful meat that’s high in iron and protein and contains healthy compounds such as creatine, taurine, and glutathione.
While some studies have gathered observational evidence of negative effects from red meat consumption, other sources have found little or no effect [*].
Processing and sourcing are also important to consider. Organic, 100% grass-fed lamb may mitigate some of the negative health effects observed in processed meat consumption [*].
In short, if you eat a moderate amount of lamb like any normal person tends to, and you opt for high-quality lamb, this red meat can be a nutritious and delicious addition to your diet.
Lamb nutrition facts
Lamb is lean, high in protein, a good source of iron, has plenty of zinc, and offers a nice variety of healthy fats.
The average 4oz portion of ground, raw lamb has [*]:
- 319 calories
- 18.8g protein
- 26.4g fat
- 0g carbs
- 0g fiber
- 0g sugar
- 1.39% of your daily calcium
- 9.72% of your daily iron
- 5.64% of your daily magnesium
- 14.16% of your daily phosphorus
- 5.34% of your daily potassium
- 35% of your daily zinc
- 38.55% of you daily selenium
- 42.13% of your daily niacin
- 18.23% of your daily riboflavin
Calories in lamb
Lamb has a little higher calorie count than beef, but it has similar amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. The main difference is that lamb has more selenium, while beef has more zinc [*].
The fat content of lamb is also higher than beef in general but varies depending on the cut and trimming method.
4oz of ground raw lamb has 319 calories [*], so if you eat a modest portion alongside healthy sides, you can absolutely make this a weeknight staple.
Protein in lamb
There’s 18.8g of protein for 4oz of lamb, which is a high amount and what makes lamb and other red meats so filling and good for muscle growth.
Lamb is also a complete protein source, meaning you don’t have to eat other foods to get all the essential amino acids you need [*].
The specific amino acid composition may vary slightly depending on factors such as the cut of meat and the diet of the lamb, but here are some of the essential amino acids you’ll find in lamb [*]:
They’re essential because they cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained via foods like lamb. They play vital roles in various physiological processes, including protein synthesis, muscle growth and repair, hormone production, and immune function [*].
Fats in lamb
The fat content in lamb cut-to-cut changes significantly depending on the lamb, cut, and how much is trimmed, but the fat content is typically around 20% and is split fairly evenly between saturated and monounsaturated fat [*].
3 ounces of lamb usually contains around 3 grams of healthy monounsaturated fat, and 40% of the fat you eat in lamb is monounsaturated.
That gets a bit complex, so just know that on average, 3 ounces of lamb fits comfortably into the daily fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol recommendations set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans [*].
Vitamins and minerals in lamb
3.5 ounces of cooked lamb provides approximately 1.8 to 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12, which means you’ll likely meet the recommended daily intake for adults of 2.4 micrograms with a single serving. Vitamin B12 is found in most meats and is critical to brain function and the formation of blood. Without it, you are more likely to get anemia.
Your body’s need for niacin, or vitamin B3, is also met with a similar serving. Niacin supports energy production, promotes heart health by improving cholesterol levels, enhances brain function, contributes to skin health, and aids in DNA repair and cell growth [*].
Lamb also includes a good bit of selenium, zinc, and iron. Selenium is a great antioxidant, zinc is essential for your immune system, and iron helps prevent fatigue and weakness [*].
Other compounds in Lamb
Lamb also has a few other compounds worth talking about.
- CLAs: Lamb has a high amount of ruminant trans fats known as CLAs, or conjugated linoleic acids, which are omega-6 fatty acids and may fight cancer and help weight loss [*].
- Creatine: It also has creatine, another amino acid and a word many in the bodybuilding community are familiar with. We naturally make creatine but can also get it from animal sources like lamb, and creatine is good for muscle growth and energy [*].
- Taurine: Taurine is also an amino acid found in lamb that may have potential cardiovascular benefits. Taurine has been observed to exert anti-neurotoxic and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also been shown to protect various organs against damage induced by mental and oxidative stress [*].
- Glutathione: And lastly, lamb has glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that may help protect the body from disease, slow down cancer, and improve your insulin sensitivity [*].
Benefits of eating lamb meat
1. Stay full with protein
4oz of lamb has 18.8g of protein or 36% of your DV. Keeping protein intake high helps build muscle and keeps you full longer. This makes lamb a great choice for anyone looking to build muscle or extend time between meals.
2. Fight fatigue with Iron and B12
Insufficient intake of iron and vitamin B12 can lead to feelings of fatigue and low energy levels.
Fortunately, lamb provides a good amount of both iron and vitamin B12. Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood, while vitamin B12 plays a key role in converting the food we consume into usable energy.
By incorporating lamb into your diet, you can not only enjoy its rich flavor and versatility but also support your energy metabolism and combat potential deficiencies that may contribute to fatigue [*][*].
3. Stay healthy with zinc
Zinc, an essential mineral found in lamb, plays a vital role in supporting a healthy immune system and defending against infections. It serves as a key component for immune cell development, activation, and function, enabling the body to effectively combat pathogens and maintain overall immune health.
Zinc also helps produce the enzymes and proteins crucial for wound healing, making it an important nutrient for maintaining proper skin integrity and facilitating the repair of damaged tissues [*].
4. Keep cholesterol levels balanced with niacin
There’s a lot of niacin (also known as Vitamin B3) in lamb, which helps metabolize macronutrients and improve cholesterol health. It also supports a lot of other functions and areas, including the heart, skin, and the production of neurotransmitters [*].
Who shouldn’t eat lamb?
If lamb is cooked thoroughly according to USDA standards, then lamb should be safe for pregnant women and other sensitive populations, although some people opt for avoiding red meat entirely during pregnancy [*].
Outside of pregnant women, unless you have a rare red meat allergy or have been advised by a doctor to avoid red meat, then lamb should be just fine — and healthy too.
The core meta hypothesis is that the compounds most dangerous to humans arise when meat is cooked at high temperatures (e.g. frying, grilling, and broiling), which means steaming and boiling lamb meat may be healthier. And like anything, the frequency of consumption and quality of sourcing also make a difference, making it difficult to reach a clear conclusion.
We’re of the mindset that if you eat high-quality meat from sources that don’t pack their lamb with antibiotics and other hormones, and eat lamb as part of a balanced diet using cooking methods that aren’t using more problematic fat sources like vegetable oils, etc., then lamb can make a fine addition to a diet.
Healthy ways to prepare lamb
Simplicity is the way. The healthiest would be to boil or steam lamb, but that is also the most boring. A sous vide without a sear would also fit into the healthier camp, but skipping the sear or crust is also missing out on a lot of flavor!
What isn’t as healthy (but is also so delicious), is shepherd’s pie, stew, fried, or braised recipes that combine more cream, breading, cheese, and/or alcohol as part of its preparation.
For a happy medium, we recommend grilling, pan searing, or broiling your lamb to medium with a simple seasoning blend (even just salt and pepper). If you add butter, make sure it is high quality.
In short, aim to eat the meat as close to its original form as possible, and if you’re going to add ingredients, make sure they are also well-sourced.
A few specific recommendations include:
- Pan-seared lamb loin chops with asparagus and mashed potatoes.
- Crockpot lamb with brown rice and green beans.
- Sous vide lamb with roasted squash and brussel sprouts.
Where to buy the healthiest lamb
The healthiest lamb comes from the healthiest farms, so it pays to know where you’re sourcing from and why. Studies have even shown how lambs that forage have a preferable taste too, which doesn’t hurt [*].
The USDA allows certain hormones and antibiotics approved by the FDA to be used in lambs slaughtered for meat [*], which means industrial lamb passes those things along to us when we eat them.
Industrially-raised lamb may have a higher omega-6 fatty acid content compared to grass-fed or pasture-raised lamb as well. The typical American diet has an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which has been associated with inflammation and certain health issues.
That means choosing grass-fed or pasture-raised lamb may help maintain a healthier balance of these essential fatty acids [*].
As an alternative, U.S. Wellness Meats’ lambs are raised on sustainable family farms dedicated to good stewardship. If it sounds like no chemicals, no added growth hormones, no GMOs, and no antibiotics is a little old fashioned, you’re exactly right. We like to keep it close to the source.
Try the best family farm lamb you can order in the USA.
The bottom line
Lamb is a lean and flavorful meat that is high in iron and protein and also provides valuable vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, zinc, and iron. Assuming you eat lamb in moderation, it should be a great addition to most people’s diets.
Just don’t forget how important good sourcing is in terms of health and taste!
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.