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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Beef Jerky Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Is Beef Jerky Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: March 28, 2023
6 min read 932 Views 0 Comments
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High protein snack or highly processed meat? Many have opinions on beef jerky and how it fits into a balanced diet. This article confirms how healthy beef jerky is so you know whether to enjoy, limit, or avoid it in your diet.

is beef jerky healthy

Beef jerky is a dried meat snack, usually made from grass-fed beef, soy sauce, sugar, and seasoning. It is salty in taste and leathery in texture. However, you can find beef jerky in different textures in today’s market, as well as buffalo, pork, chicken, and turkey jerky.

In the past, beef jerky was considered junk food with little nutritional value. Today, it has mixed reviews as a highly processed but healthy snack. Now, can it be both?

This article details the contents of beef jerky to determine if it is or isn’t healthy food.

Is Beef Jerky Healthy?

Beef jerky is a healthy snack you can indulge in as part of a balanced diet. It is a high-protein food with other powerful nutrients like iron and zinc. It’s not for everyday eating because it is processed meat, but in moderation, beef jerky can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Processed meats are safe as part of a varied diet, but in excess, they can harm your health. Beef jerky has high amounts of sodium, which can cause many health problems, such as high blood pressure. Your diet should mainly comprise minimally-processed whole foods.

Remember that beef jerky’s origin can influence whether it makes a nutritious snack. Many commercial jerky products have a higher sodium and sugar content. Making homemade beef jerky can help you control your sodium intake and skip the preservatives.

3 Health Benefits of Beef Jerky

You can eat beef jerky and gain some health perks. The best beef jerky is made from grass-fed beef and other clean ingredients. Checking the nutrition label will help you choose healthier beef jerky options made from lean cuts of beef and containing zero sugar.

Here are some benefits of consuming beef jerky.

#1 Rich in protein

Beef jerky is a great snack for satisfying cravings and boosting energy levels. It will help you feel full between meals and prevent you from binge eating high-carb snacks that do not benefit your body. 

Eating high-protein foods after exercise can also fuel muscle recovery.

#2 Good source of calcium

Calcium is a mineral closely associated with strong bones and teeth. However, it has many other principal functions. For instance, your heart, muscles, and nerves also rely on calcium to function well.

#3 Good source of iron and zinc

Beef jerky contains good amounts of iron and zinc. Iron makes hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells. It is essential because these red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. Getting enough iron in your diet prevents fatigue and health issues like iron deficiency anemia.

Zinc has responsibilities for immune function, DNA, cell growth, and healing.

3 Downsides of Beef Jerky

Regardless of the recipe, beef jerky remains in the family of processed meats. That’s why you should only eat it in moderate amounts. Consider these downsides before stocking up on jerky.

#1 High sodium content

Sodium is beef jerky’s biggest downfall. Consuming too much sodium in your diet can result in high blood pressure, which in turn, increases heart disease and stroke risk. Adults should have no more than 2300mg of sodium per day. 100g of beef jerky has a whopping 1780mg.

#2 Highly processed

The manufacturing process makes beef jerky a processed food. It is cured meat, which means it has had its moisture drawn out. It may contain added sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients. Consuming a lot of processed meat products is thought to heighten cancer risk.

#3 May lead to weight gain

High-salt diets have a connection to higher body fat. They also cause your body to retain more water, which can reflect as extra pounds on the scale. Therefore, sodium-rich food is bad for weight loss

Moreover, beef jerky is not a low-calorie food. It has a modest amount of calories that will quickly rack up if you consume it regularly.

Nutritional Facts of Beef Jerky

The beef jerky nutrition facts help you gain a more in-depth understanding of how it can affect your health. Keep these in mind when assessing your diet and weight loss goals.

Nutritional Value per 100g

Here is the nutritional value of 100g of beef jerky.

Calories/ Nutrients (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)410
Net carbs (g)9.2
Fiber (g)1.8
Sugar (g)9
Fats (total)25.6
Protein (g)33.2
Cholesterol (mg)48

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167536/nutrients 

Moderate amount of calories

Many processed foods, such as bacon, pork sausages, and burgers, are high in calories. Surprisingly, beef jerky has only a moderate number of calories. So, small amounts should fit within your calorie budget. Still, you must monitor your intake to avoid weight gain.

High in proteins

With 33.2g of protein per serving, beef jerky qualifies as a protein-rich food. This is a substantial amount to find in a snack product. You can benefit from jerky’s protein content because this essential macronutrient is responsible for repairing cells, maintaining muscle, and controlling weight.

High in fats

Healthy fats are great for your heart and brain. Saturated fats, however, are detrimental if you consume them excessively. You can obtain a combination of healthy and unhealthy fats from beef jerky, but a high amount of them is saturated – 10.8g per 100g serving.

Moderate amount of carbs

Beef jerky has moderate carbs, but you can often find low-carb varieties. Keeping your carb intake down can help you lose weight. Ketogenic approaches are known to promote quick weight loss. Generally, beef jerky is not keto-friendly unless you buy a zero-carb version.

Rich in minerals and vitamins

It’s always good to eat foods containing minerals and vitamins. Beef jerky provides you with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and more. These all contribute to your body’s maintenance and function and protect you from developing nutrient deficiencies.

Biltong vs. Beef Jerky

Below is a comparison between the dried meats: biltong and beef jerky.

ProductBeef jerkyBiltong
OriginNorth and South AmericaSouth Africa
DescriptionDried meat made from beefDried meat made from beef
TasteSalty and smokySeasoned steak taste
Calories (per 100g)410321
Net carbs (per 100g)9.20
Fiber (per 100g)1.80
Protein (per 100g)33.257.1
Total fats (per 100g)25.67.14
Sugar (per 100g)90
Sodium (per 100g)1780mg1540mg
Cholesterol (per 100g)48mg107mg

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2382282/nutrients 

Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

Not all beef jerky is made equal. Making your own beef jerky at home is a great idea because you can keep the sodium levels down and refrain from using artificial ingredients. You can prioritize using lean protein and create a more quality-rich, dried meat snack.

Below are the ingredients and directions for making beef jerky yourself.

Ingredients

  • 1.5lbs flank steak
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 225ºC and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flank steak on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, cut the steak crosswise into wide strips. Aim to make the strips approximately ⅛in thick and 2in wide.
  3. Leave the strips to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Put them in a single layer on the cutting board and pound them using a meat pounder until they are thinner and more even in size.
  4. Add the beef strips to a large bowl before adding the salt, pepper, and spices. Toss using your hands until the beef is adequately coated.
  5. Now, add the seasoned beef strips to the baking sheets. Cook for 3 hours until the beef is browned, checking halfway and rearranging the strips.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on a cooling rack. Leave for around 30 minutes before eating, and refrigerate any leftovers for future snacks.

We recommend experimenting with nutrition apps for more recipes that include your favorite foods. You can find delicious and healthy recipes to complement a well-balanced diet.

FAQs

Is beef jerky good or bad for you?

Beef jerky has its pros and cons. It makes a healthy snack in moderation because it contains protein and vitamins. On the other hand, those who eat beef jerky excessively risk the harmful effects of processed red meat and high sodium levels. Moderation is key.

Is beef jerky good for weight loss?

As a high-protein, low-carb food, beef jerky is an excellent weight-loss snack. Consuming a good amount of protein promotes satiety, helps you lose body fat, and supports lean muscle maintenance. Eat too much, however, and you risk gaining weight.

Is beef jerky fattening?

Those who eat highly-processed beef jerky too often may gain weight from the high sodium content. It also contains a moderate amount of calories and saturated fats, which add additional calories to your diet. You will struggle to lose weight if you consume too much jerky.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Jerky falls into the controversial category of processed meat. It is high in protein but also high in sodium, similar to deli meats like pastrami and salami. Like these foods, you can eat jerky sometimes without harm. Too much, however, may be associated with cardiovascular disease.

Most processed meat products are okay to eat now and then. The rest of the time, try filling your diet with whole foods. These foods are minimally processed and don’t carry risk. You can eat other varieties of beef that are better for you, such as roast beef and extra-lean sirloin steak.

Conclusion

People like snacking on beef jerky because it tastes good, but it has much more to offer. The right jerky, usually made from grass-fed organic beef, is packed with vitamins and minerals to assist your body. Just don’t go overboard, as there’s no escaping the fact that it is processed food.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: March 28, 2023
6 min read 932 Views 0 Comments
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