Many people raise rabbits as pets, but these small, furry animals also serve as a healthy source of high-quality protein. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encouraged families to eat rabbit during periods of food rationing during World War II, when meat was hard to find.
While there's no longer a meat shortage in the U.S., eating rabbit is still a healthy meat choice with a tasty flavor.
A 3-oz. serving of roasted, domesticated rabbit contains 167 calories. If you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, a serving of rabbit meat comprises 8.3 percent of the calories you should consume in a day. This portion of meat contributes toward the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation of two to three daily protein servings. Add a healthy grain and a steamed vegetable dish to make a serving of rabbit into a nutritious, balanced meal.
Fat and cholesterol
Even though 37 percent of the calories in a serving of rabbit meat come from fat, very little of that fat -- 2 out of 6.8 grams -- comes from saturated fat, the type of fat often blamed for high cholesterol levels.
As long as you balance your meal plan with low-fat foods and limit your consumption of saturated fat to 15 grams or less per day, consuming rabbit meat should not contribute toward an increased risk of heart disease. A serving of rabbit meat contains dietary cholesterol as well, but the 69.7 grams per serving account for just 23.2 percent of the recommended limit of 300 mg per day.
Including rabbit in your diet gives you access to high-quality protein, as rabbit meat provides all the essential amino acids. One serving contains 24.7 percent of the 46 to 56 grams of protein you need in your diet every day.
In addition to supplying you with the amino acids your body requires to function, the protein in rabbit meat also helps your body produce hormones, and it keeps your immune system working.
Vitamins and minerals
Rabbit meat is an excellent source of vitamin B12. Per serving, it provides 118 percent of the vitamin B12 you need each day. It also supplies 36 percent of the daily recommended amount of niacin, 22 percent of the phosphorus you should consume daily and 20 percent of the vitamin B6 your body requires on a daily basis.
A serving of rabbit meat contains lesser amounts of zinc, iron and potassium: 13 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent of the suggested daily value, respectively.
Always cook rabbit meat thoroughly, as undercooked rabbit may contain a bacteria called Francisella tularensis that can cause tularemia.
Symptoms of this illness include chest pain, muscle aches, chills and fever, headache and coughing. Antibiotics serve as the recommended treatment to clear up tularemia that is caused by improperly cooked rabbit.