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Is Beef Jerky Good For You?


Beef jerky is arguably one of the most nibbled on snacks globally, from standard flavours to spicy, chewy, vegan and more. In recent years beef jerky went through the wringer for being processed. But beef jerky is actually a better snack than many ‘healthy’ foods on the market.


Where Did Beef Jerky Come From?

Hundreds of years ago, hunters used to have large animals, and the meat needed to be kept well for longer periods. In order to stop the meat from spoiling, it was carefully dried out. As it dried, the texture of the meat became chewy. The meat from various animals could be smoked over a fire or dried in the sun. Both of these gave the meat a different taste and texture.

Beef jerky was easy to transport too, which meant people could take it with them over many miles of traveling.

There are a number of beef jerky variations like Biltong and Pemmican, which are seasoned differently, but the texture is usually similar. We recommend checking out our biltong vs beef jerky guide.

You can even find many vegetarian and vegan mimics of beef jerky, which shows how popular and versatile it is.

Since every country has some form of persevered meat, no matter which continent you ask, they most likely produced it first. However, it may date back to an ancient Inca Tribe called the Quechua.

And the term Ch’arki which means dried, salted meat is what we now know as the word jerky.


What is Beef Jerky Made of?

As the name suggests, beef jerky comes from cows. But as one of the older preservation methods, beef jerky has been made from many different meat types. Often referred to just as jerky.  We recommend grabbing a cuppa & checking out our What Is Biltong blog.

Depending on the country making the beef jerky, the meat can be pork, venison, bison, buffalo, deer, and more.

In European countries like Germany, there is and was an abundance of deer, so typically their jerky would be made from deer. 

The Dutch have their own specific history with South Africa and Biltong.

In Asia, you are likely to find jerky made from cuttlefish, salmon, and squid. This goes some way to show the versatility and ease of making jerky.


Is Beef Jerky Good For You?

The term ‘good for you’ can be pretty broad. Beef jerky, in some circles, is the go-to snack, like paleo and keto followers. However, others label it junk food. So, is beef jerky good for you?

There are many different types of beef jerky on the market, and some aren’t healthy options. Let’s talk about plain beef jerky, though. It’s actually incredible.

  • 116 calories
  • 7g fat of which 3g is saturated fat
  • 3g carbs
  • 9g protein
  • 0g fibre
  • 2.5g sugar
  • 506mg sodium

This makes it a great source of lean protein—the ideal snack for busy people, weight lifters, and those on diets. The amount of protein is ideal for filling you up until your next meal.

Beef jerky is also high in some of the important vitamins and minerals. As it is made with lean cuts of beef and spices or seasoning, there is very little in the way of ‘bad stuff’ added.

Here are the vitamins and minerals that you can find in beef jerky:

Copper, Selenium, Potassium, Thiamine, Magnesium, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron, Folate, Phosphorus, Vitamin B12, Zinc, and Choline.

The combination of minerals and vitamins are great for providing energy and supporting immunity.

The long shelf life that beef jerky has also make it cost-effective in terms of snacks and easy to travel with.

The downside is the high sodium content; however, when eaten in moderation like everything else, beef jerky is a great snack and can play a supporting role in weight and appetite management. You can also purchase low sodium variants.

Hikers, bikers, athletes, weightlifters, and other high impact and active sports will often have beef jerky with them. It is packed with energy and is lightweight, so easy to carry.

How Do You Eat Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky is already cooked and requires absolutely no effort on your part to enjoy it. You don’t need to prepare it or cook it. You can eat beef jerky directly from the packet. There are some beef jerky brands that will require you to refrigerate it once you have opened the packet, but for the most part, it doesn’t need anything.


Is Beef Jerky Gluten-Free?

For many people who have gluten intolerance or are avoiding gluten for other reasons, beef jerky is the ideal snack. Beef jerky is simply dehydrated meat that may have some additional flavouring. It can be produced with zero gluten-based ingredients, and that makes it 100% gluten-free. You can read the ingredients list, though, to make sure.


Can You Cook With Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky is a nutrition snack, but you might not know that you can cook with it too. Beef jerky is packed with flavour, which is why it is such a popular snack. Adding beef jerky into other dishes can bring a punch of meaty flavour or smoky flavour depending on the variant. 

Beef jerky works very well in any dish that might have smoke bacon lardons or other high flavour meats. You can use a food processor to make the pieces smaller and easier to use in cooking.

  • You can use beef jerky as a topping for your mac and cheese.
  • Add into a salad as a topping or into sauces.
  • Cook into a stew; it rehydrates while cooking and becomes chunkier.
  • Chopped and cooked with potato slices

Beef jerky is a long-lasting and highly portable snack option, high in protein, and a range of other energy supporting vitamins and minerals. This naturally low in fat snack can help you curb hunger and increase protein intake.

Long-life snacks like beef jerky are cost-effective, great to grab and go, and delicious.

Beef jerky has been a staple snack for millions of people for thousands of years and can be part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

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