What to Know About Lamb Nutrition

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on July 10, 2023
3 min read

Lamb is a type of red meat from domesticated sheep that are less than a year old. Most lamb is brought to market at around 6 to 8 months of age. Sheep over the age of 1 year are considered mutton, not lamb. Lamb is the oldest known domesticated meat species, entering the human diet about 9,000 years ago in the Middle East.

There are five basic major, or primal, cuts of lamb that you're most likely to find at the grocery store: 

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

Lamb is high in protein. One 3-ounce serving of lamb has 15 grams of protein, almost a third of the recommended daily intake for adults.

A diet high in protein is ideal for athletes, people seeking to lose weight, and people recovering from surgery or injury.

Lamb contains important vitamins and minerals. Red meats like lamb are high in: 

These are all important nutrients for vital body function, including immune support, cholesterol management, and bone health.

Lamb has healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats can help your heart when you eat them in moderation. They can help reduce levels of "bad" cholesterol in your blood, lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Monounsaturated fats also have vitamin E, an antioxidant.  Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet. They can help your body absorb nutrients.

Lamb is high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This natural acid has been shown to reduce body fat mass. In moderate amounts, it might be helpful for weight loss or management. But large amounts may have negative effects on metabolic health.

Like any red meat, lamb comes with some health risks. Studies have found that high consumption of red meat products like beef, lamb, pork, veal, and mutton can raise your risk of a number of long-term (chronic) illnesses, including:

Experts also recommend making sure that lamb is handled safely and prepared properly to avoid foodborne illnesses. Keep raw lamb refrigerated and away from other foods. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any raw meat. 

Ground and muscle-meat cuts of lamb should be cooked to 160 F. They may still be slightly pink in the middle, but this temperature makes sure they’re safe. 

One of the healthiest ways to prepare meat is to cook muscle cuts on a grill or roast them in the oven. Don't overcook or burn the meat, as this may raise cancer risks.   

Ground lamb can be used in recipes like lamb burgers, meatloaf, or stir-fries. It is also often found in curries, shepherd's pie, Mediterranean-style vegetables and grains, and kabobs.  

Lamb is meat from a sheep that is less than a year old. It is a delicious and rich source of protein that has important vitamins and minerals. When consumed in moderation, it is a healthy addition to a well-balanced diet.

Like other red meats, lamb can increase your chances of developing certain chronic illnesses. Experts recommend eating red meat in moderation. This allows you to enjoy its benefits and avoid any potential negative impacts on your health.

When lamb is prepared safely and not overcooked, it is a tasty and healthy addition to your dinner table.