Is Beef Jerky Healthy? What You Should Know

Ah, beef jerky: it’s delicious. But, as you probably already know, delicious doesn’t always equal healthy. In fact, in most cases, it tends to equal the opposite. 

So, where does beef jerky fall on the spectrum of healthy and unhealthy? Is it an anomaly that manages to maintain good nutrition despite its delicious taste? Or is it just as unhealthy as you think it might be?

We’re going to get into that below, not only providing an answer to the question of “is beef jerky healthy?” but providing a variety of other information as well. Let’s go! 

What is Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky is, to put it simply, cured beef. This is to say that it’s beef which has been put in a salt solution, allowing for it to lose up to 50% of its moisture content. Dry, rough, and chewy, beef jerky works terrifically as a snack, as it can be easily stored, transported, and consumed. 

However, it’s important to note that not all beef jerky made at the level of this product. The animals from which its made plus the manufacturing processes associated with it have a large effect on its quality, both taste-wise and health-wise. As such, before choosing a beef jerky, you must read nutritional labels closely. 

The Positives of Beef Jerky

Determining whether or not a food is healthy is all about comparing its positive characteristics against its negative characteristics. If its positives far outweigh its negatives, it could reasonably be referred to as a healthy food.

We’re going to review the positives and negatives of beef jerky, starting out with its positives. Let’s begin. 

Tons of Protein 

The biggest positive of beef jerky (aside from its taste) is its protein content. Beef jerky packs a great deal of protein, making it a superb snack for weightlifters and those who are trying to lose weight. 

An ounce of beef jerky usually contains between 8 and 10 grams of protein. Considering the fact that this amount of jerky includes only around 116 calories, it gives you a great deal of bang for your protein buck. 

High Zinc Content 

The human body requires adequate amounts of zinc in order to build a strong immune system as well as to properly synthesize blood cells. Fortunately, beef jerky is packed with zinc, providing between 2 and 2.5 mg per ounce or product. 

This makes up approximately a quarter of the human body’s daily zinc needs. So, by eating this amount of jerky on a daily basis, you make your body stronger and allow it to function more efficiently. 

Low in Carbs 

Another big positive of beef jerky is that it’s low in carbohydrates. This makes it a great snack option for diets such as the Atkins Diet. 

While carbs are great for energy endurance, they are bad for weight loss. This is because they cause you to feel hungrier more often and usually have adverse effects on metabolism. So, unless you’re running a marathon, consuming carbs at high levels is problematic.

The Negatives of Beef Jerky?

While beef jerky has positive attributes, it’s not without its flaws either. The negatives of beef jerky will be discussed below.

Filled With Saturated Fat

There are two types of fats: saturated fats and non-saturated fats. While non-saturated fats are beneficial to human health, saturated fats are the exact opposite. 

Unfortunately, beef jerky contains quite a bit in the way of saturated fat. A single ounce of jerky contains approximately 3.1 grams of saturated fat. Considering that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 15.5 grams of saturated fat daily, this is a fairly high figure, especially for a snack. 

So, in essence, if you’re going to eat beef jerky, you should eat only small amounts of it. Eating it in bulk could have adverse effects on your heart. 

High in Sodium 

Sodium has been linked to increases in blood pressure. As such, high amounts of sodium are believed to have negative effects on the heart. 

Unfortunately, beef jerky is chocked full of sodium, containing 550 mg of it in just an ounce of product. This makes up almost a quarter of the 2,300-mg limit devised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, it’s substantial. 

So, again, if you’re going to eat beef jerky, make sure to eat it in moderation. Eating several ounces of jerky a day is almost sure to put you over your sodium limit. 

Choosing a Beef Jerky 

Have you decided that beef jerky is a suitable snack for your diet? If so, it’s imperative that you choose the right one. After all, as was noted above, not all beef jerkies are created equally. 

First and foremost, make sure that the jerky you choose contains organic beef. Organic beef comes from grass-fed cows and undergoes only small amounts of factory processing. It’s much healthier than processed meat.

Next, make sure you’re choosing a jerky with quality ingredients. If it contains anything more than salt, sugar, water, and beef, it’s likely not great for you. Steer clear of any jerkies containing nitrates, artificial preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup.

While your jerky can contain sugar, it shouldn’t contain any more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. A low sodium-option should be sought as well. Try to keep it below 350 milligrams of sodium per serving. 

So . . . is Beef Jerky Healthy? 

We’ve covered everything there is to know about beef jerky. And yet, it still begs the question, “is beef jerky healthy?”. While beef jerky has its nutritional downsides, the best answer to that question is “yes”. 

Beef jerky is a low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein snack that can tide you over between meals. As long as it’s eaten in moderation, it can benefit your diet. 

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