Is Beef Jerky Good For You?

Beef jerky is a hunger-satisfying, high-protein snack that comes in lots of flavors and brands. It’s an excellent source of lean protein that can fill you up when you are hungry. But is beef jerky really good for you?

| Beef jerky is enjoyed as a hunger-satisfying, high-protein snack that comes in lots of flavors and brands. It’s an excellent source of lean protein that can fill you up when you are hungry. But is beef jerky really good for you?

I like beef jerky as a snack.

I’ve listed it as one of my fave high protein snacks because it’s easy to grab when you are headed out the door. 

But it’s not something I eat tons of, just like I don’t fill up and over-indulge on cookies and pretzel bites, even if the ones I make are the BEST versions of yummy snacks. 

Everything in moderation, right?

I do make it my mission to cook and bake with the healthiest ingredients out there, and it’s seriously one of the things I love the most about this blog.

I like to perfect my recipes to the best version. I also like to research and write about the goodness of foods and point out the benefits. A couple of examples of this are 11 Proven Health Benefits of Chocolate | Is it OK to Eat Chocolate Every Day? and 9 Shocking Benefits of Sauerkraut.

And with beef jerky the topic of the day, I’m happy to share what I learned about whether beef jerky is good for you, and if it’s okay to eat it often.

Let’s unpack it, shall we?

IS BEEF JERKY RAW?

Beef jerky is already cooked. You can grab and eat it right out of the package. Typically, it does not need refrigeration, but there are some brands out there that do. Check carefully so that you are not eating a product off the counter that should have been in the fridge.

HOW LONG IS BEEF JERKY GOOD FOR?

It depends on the brand, but on average, store-bought beef jerky lasts about a year. Some producers state to ensure freshness and optimum flavor, eat the beef jerky within 6 months.

Overhead image of some pieces of prepared beef jerky, with spices surrounding it.

IS BEEF JERKY KETO-FRIENDLY?

Being a high protein food that is low in sugar and carbohydrates, beef jerky is keto-friendly. It is usually not high-fat, though, so be sure to include it in your diet along with good-for-you fats.

A snack of beef jerky paired with cheese or nuts makes the snack fit the keto diet profile.

IS BEEF JERKY GOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

It can be. You see, protein digests slowly, which means that you stay full for longer. So, beef jerky is one of the healthy proteins that can work in your favor and keep you away from nutrition-lacking foods with empty calories. 

It’s portable, easy to eat, and the protein boosts your metabolism, which is also good for weight loss. You can also add beef jerky to a meal, such as a salad or your morning omelet for an additional protein boost. 

IS BEEF JERKY GOOD FOR BUILDING MUSCLE?

Yes, being a protein that has a “complete protein” profile, beef jerky has the essential acids known as building blocks. Beef jerky is typically low in fat, carbs, and calories. So when eaten in moderation and in combination with an exercise plan (especially one that includes resistance training), you’ll build muscle.

Overhead image of a hand holding a small glass bowl containing beef jerky.

BEEF JERKY IS NUTRITIOUS

Beef jerky has a ton of nutrients. A one-ounce serving includes the following:

  • Calories 116
  • Fat 7.3g
  • Carbs 3.1g
  • Protein 9.4g
  • Zinc 21% of your daily requirement
  • Iron 8% of your daily requirement
  • Copper 7% of your daily requirement
  • Potassium 4% of your daily requirement

Beef jerky also contains lots of minerals like thiamine, choline, selenium, and niacin. It’s high in B12, too. Zinc, for example, helps the immune system while potassium may help blood sugar levels

WHY YOU NEED TO EAT BEEF JERKY IN MODERATION

Beef jerky has a lot going for it but you have to remember that some store-bought brands will be very high in sodium. The one-ounce serving we spoke of earlier has 22% of your daily allowance. Keep this in mind when helping yourself to a snack of beef jerky. Excessive salt intake leads to health conditions like the risk of stroke and high blood pressure.

Despite all there is going for it, eating beef jerky in moderation is key. I can’t go without mentioning the issues with eating processed meats. Studies show that meats like sausages, smoked meat, and yes, beef jerky may increase the risk of cancers like gastrointestinal cancer.

It’s always best to eat clean, wholesome foods with little processed meat.

This is why making your own beef jerky is the best idea. It’s not that hard to do, and making your own ensures that you know exactly what goes into it.

Close up side view of a blue tin cup filled with strips of beef jerky.

HOW TO CHOOSE BEEF JERKY WHEN YOU ARE BUYING IT

When I buy beef jerky, there are a few things I look out for: 

  • MSG: Do you have sensitivities to monosodium glutamate? Headaches are one of the most common symptoms. Look for MSG-free brands.  Also, this can cause inflammation.
  • Sodium: When the daily recommended value of sodium in a food product is over 20%, that is considered high. Excessive sodium leads to heightened cardiovascular event and stroke risks, among others. Choose a beef jerky with a lower count. All beef jerky will have some salt in it as part of the preservation process.
  • Nitrates: One of the great things about beef jerky is that it is shelf-stable. You don’t have to keep most brands in the fridge, and you can throw it in your backpack or bag on the way out the door. But this comes with a price. Nitrates and nitrites are known to increase cancer risk. Rather than sodium nitrate, look for products with celery powder or sea salt as the curing agent.
  • Beef source: Look for beef jerky that is made from beef sourced in the USA. If you look at some beef jerky labels, you may discover that the jerky is made overseas and just packaged here.
  • Gluten-free: If you are sensitive to gluten, check the labels carefully. Some manufacturers may use products with gluten when processing and curing.
  • Sugar: So many products have hidden sugars, and beef jerky is no exception. Eating too much sugar causes problems, such as cardiovascular disease and obesity. Look at options out there with low or zero sugar.
  • Shelf date: Remember, beef jerky lasts a long time on the shelves. But still, you want to buy a fresh product. Check the best before date for freshness.

Overhead view of prepared beef jerky, piled on a square white cutting board, with spices surrounding it.

HEALTHIEST BEEF JERKY OPTIONS

No doubt you have your favorite brand of beef jerky, but these are brands I like.  To ensure you are buying beef jerky that is good for you, consider brands without additives. These are all top-notch companies that aim to make healthy beef jerky. Remember to read the label on the packaging, though, as each manufacturer has their own method. 

MORE HEALTHY FOODS WITH ADDED NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

I’ve got a lot of posts that explain the added nutritional benefits of certain healthy foods. Take a look!

This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

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