When I work with my clients, one of the first things I do is look at their daily diet. I observe to see if they are getting enough vegetables, proteins, fibers, and other nutrients, as well as a good variety in their diet. Quite often what I see is chicken, chicken, chicken! Day after day for lunch, and dinner, chicken. There is nothing wrong with eating chicken, especially if it is raised in healthy conditions. It is a great source of protein, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. However, when you focus on one food, you run the risk of missing out on some other very important nutrients.
The healthiest diets include a wide variety of foods. It is important to incorporate an assortment of vegetables, fruits, and grains, as well as different sources of proteins. One of my favorites for adding protein variety to my diet is grass-fed lamb.
Grass-fed lamb is loaded with protein, is a great source of B vitamins, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and even omega 3 fatty acids.
Lamb is often referred to as “Land Salmon” due to its healthy omega 3 fatty acid profile. A 3 oz serving of grass-fed lamb has approximately 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Comparatively, wild-caught salmon has approximately 1800 mg, and chicken and beef roughly 80 grams of this important anti-inflammatory fat. Although salmon is the food hailed for its omega-3 fatty acids, lamb doesn’t fall too far behind. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be valuable in helping to prevent a wide range of diseases, including cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune diseases, and osteoporosis. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation that stimulates the undesirable activity of our osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone, leading to osteoporosis. Most Americans don’t get enough of these valuable fats in their diet.
Including lamb in your diet also adds a nice variety of protein. As we age we need more protein in our diet. Protein is an essential building block for muscles, bones, skin, hair. It is also important for making the hemoglobin in our blood which transports oxygen around the body.
Most hormones, enzymes, and antibodies are also proteins. So getting enough protein to support these vital structures and substances is critical for the proper function of every cell and system in our body.
The exact protein requirement for older adults has yet to be established. However, per current research and expert opinion, it is recommended that most older adults need to consume 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight every day to preserve muscle mass and health. To find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight by 2.2. A woman weighing 130 pounds or 59 kilograms needs between 59-70 grams of protein a day. A 180-pound man, at 82 kilograms, needs between 82-98 grams of protein a day.
3 oz of lamb packs about 23 grams of protein which is comparable to protein content in a serving of steak or salmon or chicken. In one serving of lamb, you get a healthy dose of protein, valuable omega 3 fatty acids, as well as B vitamins, iron, selenium, and zinc.
Although consuming animal proteins is one of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting your daily dose of protein, it shouldn’t be your sole source. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are also good sources of protein and provide other valuable nutrients as well. Remember, the healthiest diets include a multitude of foods.
It is easier than you think to add lamb to your diet
Many think that lamb is complicated to prepare and takes hours to cook so it is often seen as one of those meats reserved for special occasions, like Easter or Passover. Certainly, a leg of lamb or lamb stew can take a few hours to cook, but creating a meal around lamb burgers, lamb chops, lamb kabobs can be quick and simple.
You can grill up lamb patties as you would hamburger or turkey patties. I like spicing mine up with Penzey’s lamb seasoning. You can also use it in place of chicken for your kabobs. One of my favorites is to broil lamb chops with a garlic- rosemary rub. Combine any of these cooking methods with vegetables and a green salad and you have a nutritious meal in under 30 minutes. Quick and easy enough for even a busy weeknight.
It is really important that you buy grass-fed or pastured raised lamb. Like any animal protein, your meat is only going to be as healthy as the food and conditions that the animal was raised under. We are all familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat.” But it is more accurate to say “you are what your food ate.” So make sure you are getting your lamb from a healthy source. Lamb also falls into the red meat category, so it should be eaten in moderation.
Lamb is very popular this time of year with religious holidays such as Easter and Passover but if you enjoy lamb, consider adding it to your rotation of healthy meat options.
I am now seeing clients in person again as well as through virtual telemedicine conferencing. Please reach out if you need help reaching your health goals!