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Is Beef Jerky A Healthy Snack? Let’s Find Out

Beef jerky is a snack made by marinating and drying beef in a curing solution. Processed meat has a long shelf life and a distinct flavour. As a result, beef jerky often gets marketed as a healthy, low-calorie snack that is high in protein but low in carbohydrates.

Studies have found that 70% of millennials worldwide prefer eating snacks daily after meals. They seek snacks that will satisfy their dietary requirements. Beef jerky is a popular snack found at any supermarket or made at home.

Although beef jerky is believed to be a guilt free snack that could be added on a healthy diet list, it can be harmful if over consumed. Many people are unsure if it is a healthy or unhealthy choice. Therefore, one must know how to select the best beef jerky and understand the right level of consumption.

Nutritional Properties of Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is abundant in high BV (biological value) protein, as it provides all the essential amino acids needed by our body. and low in carbohydrates. As a result, it has a healthier nutritional profile than many other snack foods and is incorporated in various diets, including low-carb and keto.

As per the USDA, around 100 grams of beef jerky serving contains the following nutrients:

Calories: 410 kcalsProtein: 33.2 g Carbohydrates: 11 gFat: 25.6 gFibre: 1.8 gMagnesium: 51 mgCalcium: 20 mgIron: 5.42 mgPhosphorus: 407 mgPotassium: 597 mgSodium: 1780 mgZinc: 8.11 mg

Nutrition Facts

Beef jerky is low in carbs and is suitable for a low-carb and paleo diet. However, some flavourings might influence the carbohydrate content of beef jerky. Moreover, the high biological value protein helps develop tissues and enzymes involved in keeping all body systems adequately functioning while preventing over consumption of carbs.

According to a report, beef jerky is a good source of zinc and provides much of the daily intake, ranging from 2 to 13 mg per day. Zinc helps to boost the immune system, skin health, wound healing, early foetal development during pregnancy, and cell division. Zinc deficiency manifests in two ways: slow wound healing and loss of taste and smell.

Beef jerky is relatively high in sodium which causes water retention bloating, weight gain, high blood pressure that adversely affect heart health. Therefore, the CDCP (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends limiting sodium consumption to 2,300 mg dailyand 1,500 milligrams per day for  people suffering from high blood pressure, renal illness, osteoporosis, diabetes, or heart disease risk.

The HealthifyMe Note

Beef jerky is a good source of vitamin B12 approx. 0.99 µg in a 1-cup serving. Beef Jerky also provides considerable amounts of manganese, molybdenum, and pantothenic acid. However, many commercial jerky products contain high amounts of sodium and sugar. Therefore, choosing the right beef jerky is necessary. 

Health Benefits of Beef Jerky

Strengthens Immunity

Beef Jerky is rich in zinc. A study suggests that micronutrient homeostasis is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system. Zinc is a micronutrient that regulates both innate and adaptive immune responses.

Beef Jerky Can Increase Energy Levels

Beef jerky is also rich in high biological value Iron. Research proves that iron has an essential role, as it is involved in oxygen transportation and energy formation. The body cannot synthesise iron and must acquire it, and beef Jerky is a rich source of iron.

Improves Heart Health

Beef jerky has high amounts of potassium. Potassium stimulates muscle contraction in the heart, which helps to smoothen blood flow via the arteries. As a result, it regulates your heart rate and blood pressure. Jerky also has dietary fibre, which studies believe reduces cholesterol. It is because fibre binds to cholesterol and carries it out of the body.

Improves Bone Health

Another mineral abundantly found in beef jerky is phosphorous. Research suggests that phosphorus is vital for maintaining healthy teeth and bones. You might believe calcium is in charge of this. However calcium needs phosphorus as a partner to complete the strengthening process. Phosphorus not only serves as a buffer, keeping the pH of your blood in check but also aids in the conversion of fat, carbohydrates, and protein into energy.

Acts as the Perfect Protein For Backpackers and Busybodies

Because of the curing process, beef jerky has a long shelf life. Furthermore, it is portable, making it an excellent choice for travel, trekking, and other situations where you require a protein boost, fresh food is scarce. 

How to Include Beef Jerky in Your Diet as a Healthy Snack

You can eat beef jerky-like any other store-bought snack such as chips. You can also try dicing some beef jerky and adding it to breakfast omelettes, baked potatoes or salads as a source of protein.Many people add beef jerky to soups or stews to provide a helpful iron and nutrient boost.Since homemade beef jerky is not often high in fat, pairing it with some seeds, cheese, or nuts is a great way to add healthy fats when snacking on jerky.Beef jerky is a great Keto snack because it’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates.

The HealthifyMe Note

In order to gain maximum benefits from Beef Jerky, it is imperative to find one which is free of excess salt, sugar, additives like antibiotics, growth hormones, synthetic nitrates and other artificial ingredients. Best of Luck!

Quick Tips for Making Beef Jerky

Slicing the beef along the grain will make it chewy. For tender jerky, you should be cutting against the grain.Before chopping your beef, partially freeze it. It’s considerably easier to break.Using a mallet to tenderise your steak is well worth the effort.For the marinade, use a Ziploc bag or a reusable version that allows you to coat each beef strip by massaging the bag outside.Avoid using excess salt and sugar to keep it healthy.Preheat your dehydrator to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and dehydrate the beef until it is safe to eat. Make sure to keep track of time! If you leave beef jerky in for too long, it will get dehydrated, so remove it before all of the water has evaporated. 

Healthy Recipes for Beef Jerky

Homemade Beef Jerky – The Perfect Keto Snack

Serves: 8 servings

Preparation time: 4 hours

Calories: 137 kcal

Ingredients

Flank steak: 680 gKosher salt: 1 tspChilli powder: 1 tbspBlack pepper: ½ tbspGarlic powder: 1 tbsp

Method of Preparation

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the baking trays with parchment paper.Cut the steak crosswise, against the grain, into 2-inch-wide strips using a sharp knife. If the strips are thicker than 18 inches, slice them lengthwise into two narrower strips.Allow the beef strips to thaw completely at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Then wrap them in plastic wrap and pound them to make them thinner.In a large mixing dish, place the meat strips. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and spices using your hands until it is well coated.Arrange the meat pieces in the baking trays. Then, bake for 3 hours, rotating the baking trays halfway through or until the beef is crispy and dry.Place the strips on a cooling rack on a tray or on foil to cool (to catch any drips). Allow 30 minutes for cooling and drying before eating. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.

Nutritional Facts per Serving

Protein: 17 gFat: 6 gSodium: 492 mgCarbohydrates: 1g

Homemade Beef Jerky Using a Dehydrator

You can make delicious tasting beef jerky using an oven (as in the previous recipe) or a dehydrator. If you use a dehydrator, you will obtain better and more consistent results. Dehydrators enable significantly greater temperature control (particularly at the lower temperatures required for dehydration) and airflow. In addition, they can be inexpensive and have a variety of additional applications.

Serves: 10 servings

Preparation time: 18 hours 30 minutes

Calories: 163 kcal

Ingredients

Lean Cut Beef: 907 gSoy Sauce: ¼ cupWorcestershire Sauce: 2 tbspBrown Sugar: 1 tbspSalt: a pinchBlack pepper: 1 tspGarlic powder: 1 tspOnion powder: 1 tspSmoked paprika: 1 tsp

Method of Preparation

Remove all visible fat and thinly slice the meat.Use a meat tenderiser mallet, and pound slices to a uniform thickness.In a zip-top bag, place the beef strips. Pour the remaining ingredients over the beef and mix well.Marinate for 12 to 36 hours. While the meat marinades, shake the bag a few times to ensure it is uniformly coated.In the dehydrator trays, spread the beef in a single layer, brushing off any excess marinade.Dry for 4-6 hours at 165 F/ 74 C, wiping out any fat droplets that develop on the surface as needed. Use a cooled piece to test. When jerky is adequately dried, it should crack but not shatter when bent.You can store jerky in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed. Keep the container cool, dark, and dry.

Nutritional Facts per Serving

Protein: 28 gFat: 4 gPotassium: 395 mgCarbohydrates: 4g

Storage and Food Safety

When it comes to beef jerky, how you store it is often determined by when you want to eat it. The more time you want to keep it, the more precise the storing procedure is.

Up to a Week

In non-airtight reuse or plastic bags, beef jerky will stay fresh for up to a week: the less air exposure, the better. 

Up to a Month

It would help if you used an airtight container (Mason jar, resealable container with gasket lid). Then, you can store it at room temperature but keep it out of direct sunlight. 

3-6 Months

Beef jerky should be in a vacuum sealed airtight container if kept for more than a month. Food can be vacuum-sealed in various ways, including plastic pouches or reusable Mason jars, and best stored in the refrigerator.

Precautions and Certain Things to Keep in Mind

The ingredient list is the first and most important thing to look at when evaluating any packaged food, including beef jerky. 

Allergies

When purchasing beef jerky, watch for common allergens like soy. In addition, research shows that barley malt extract is a source of gluten, which causes inflammation in certain people. If you are allergic to such ingredients, it is best to avoid eating beef jerky.

Preservatives

In cured meat products like beef jerky, sodium nitrate is a common preservative. Some concerns are that processed meats may be carcinogenic due to these nitrates. 

High Sodium Content

As Beef Jerky is processed by curing, it has a high level of salt. Studies link excess sodium consumption to increased water retention, potentially leading to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain. In addition, long-term consumption of excess sodium leads to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and kidney stones and cardiovascular related issues. Therefore, do not over-consume store-bought beef jerky, balance it out with plenty of water (to flush out the excess sodium) and naturally occurring whole plant based foods. 

Conclusion

Although beef jerky can be healthy, overeating it can result in added health problems, especially in people eating other forms of processed meats. Beef jerky (preferably homemade), when consumed in moderation, can be considered a healthy snack option due to it’s high biological value protein and essential micronutrient profile.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is beef jerky a good snack for weight loss?

A. Beef jerky is known for its high protein and low carb content. It is an excellent weight-loss snack if consumed in moderation. If overeating, the high amount of sodium might lead to weight gain.

Q. Is jerky healthier than meat?

A. No, it is not. Processed foods shouldn’t generally substitute freshly cooked meat in a meal. However, as a snack, jerky is much better than other meat-based snacks since it has significantly fewer calories and carbs.

Q. Is beef jerky lean protein?

A. Yes, it is. Beef jerky is naturally lean, thanks to its low-fat content. Since fat doesn’t dry, it gets mainly trimmed off before drying. Lean protein helps in weight loss, and muscle growth lowers the level of cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Q. Is beef jerky high in carbs?

A. Beef jerky is generally low in carbs, and there is only 11 g of carbohydrates in every 100g of jerky. Because of its low carb content, beef jerky is an excellent option in keto diets. On the other hand, some flavourings may affect the carbohydrate content of beef jerky.

Q. Can you gain weight by eating beef jerky?

A. You can only gain weight by eating beef jerky if you do not consume it in moderation. When eating jerky, it’s important to remember that too much sodium increases water retention and weight gain.

Q. Why is beef jerky unhealthy?

A. Beef jerky can be unhealthy due to the high amount of fat and sodium content; this is a result of its preparation process, which is ‘curing’. However, this can be controlled by eating jerky in moderation.

Q. Is beef jerky anti-inflammatory?

A. No, it is not. Although beef jerky is high in fat that reduces inflammation, it is also a processed meat. Beef jerky is high in inflammatory compounds like advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are formed by cooking meats at high temperatures.

Q. Can I eat beef jerky every day?

A. No, you cannot. In short, though beef jerky is a healthy snack, it’s best consumed in moderation. The majority of your diet should include whole natural and unprocessed foods.

Q. Why is beef jerky so high in protein?

A. Beef jerky protein has a high bioavailability since it comes from dried and cured lean cuts of beef. Eating one piece of beef jerky offers 6.64 grams of protein.

Q. Is beef jerky a keto diet?

A. Yes, beef jerky is an excellent Keto snack because it is rich in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. Moreover, jerky comes from lean cuts of beef. 

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