Is Beef Jerky Healthy? What You Need to Know
Beef jerky has been a contentious player in the health foods space for decades. No one really seems to know if it’s a protein-packed healthy snack or additive-laden junk food. And that confusion is understandable for reasons we'll get into shortly.
So what do you do when you need a healthy snack on a road trip or need a satiating option post-workout?
We've got your back, fellow health warrior.
Is beef jerky good for you?
Yes! If (and only if) you buy the right kind.
As we like to say, not all jerky is created equal.
The reason why the consensus around beef jerky is confusing is because for many years the only type of beef jerky available was packed with additives and preservatives and looked like a bad 80s prop. That extra processing diminishes any nutritional value you'd get from the beef.
Delicious? Debatedly so. Healthy? Absolutely not.
But beef jerky in its most natural form is definitely a healthy food, and with the boon of no-carb diets today it's no surprise that beef jerky has resurfaced as a reliable option when made correctly. It's become a great alternative for protein bars that often have added sugar or as a general snack option that’s healthier than say chips but still more savory and filling than carrots or fruit.
Nutrients and health benefits of jerky
According to the USDA, one ounce of beef jerky has the following:
- 116 calories
- 7.26g fat (3 saturated fat)
- 3.12g carbs
- 9.41g protein
- 0.5g fiber
- 2.5g sugar
- 506mg sodium
- 2.30mg zinc
- 1.54mg iron
There are more nutrients than these, but that's essentially what you need to know. You can go here for the full list if you're curious.
Okay! Let's break that down.
Beef jerky is packed with protein
Protein is a macronutrient essential for a bunch of functions in your body. Eating the right amount of protein each day provides several health benefits, including:
- Reduced appetite and hunger
- Increased strength and muscle mass
- Good for your bones
- Increases metabolism and fat burning
- Lowers blood pressure
- Can help you lose weight
- Does not harm your kidneys
- Helps repair your body after injury
According to HealthLine, The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound, and this comes out to:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
- 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
All beef jerky is absolutely stuffed with protein, and this is a direct result of the curing process that occurs when making it. At a fundamental level, all beef jerky is (or at least should be) is dried (or cured) cuts of meat with salt and spices. And when the beef cuts lose water during the drying process, the protein content inside it gets concentrated—similar to the sugar content in grapes. It becomes a power-packed punch of protein, which is what makes beef jerky so filling.
But remember that protein isn't created equally or digested the same in your body.
Protein sourced from higher quality meat is digested more efficiently and effectively than lower quality grades.
That’s why we chose to source our beef jerky line with only 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef. This means our beef sticks weren’t made from animals who were fed antibiotics or hormones, and we will never stray from that. All of Chomps' animals were raised in a free-range environment and consumed only vegetarian diets.
Beef jerky is high in fat (but that's not a bad thing)
Our body uses fats in many ways, including storing energy and cushioning our cell walls to prevent damage. Fats often get a bad rep, but they are an essential macronutrient and are a necessary component of any healthy diet. As long as you limit your saturated fats and eat fats alongside a variety of other foods as part of a balanced diet, you’ll be just fine.
While some of the fat is eliminated during the drying period, beef jerky is still high in fat content, but like most foods, as long as you snack with moderation beef sticks are a healthy, fuel-boosting snack option.
Beef jerky is higher in sodium
When beef is cured, it's typically done with salt. And with salt comes lots of sodium, which is why beef jerky usually has a lot of sodium (sometimes up to 22% of the USDA's daily recommendation in a single serving). Salt offers a natural way to preserve flavor and shelf life, but some companies add even more additives on top of that (more on that later).
Sodium is unavoidable in jerky, but watch out for jerky lines with an excess of sodium (more than 400mg per serving).
Beef jerky is high in iron and zinc
Beef jerky has high concentrations of iron, which is necessary for the production of blood cells and zinc, which supports your immune system.
Beef jerky is low-carb and still good for energy
Recent scientific literature has now proven that carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that our body does not need to survive.
That means without carbs, your body can function just fine.
After eating carb-heavy meals, you may feel hungrier more often. This feeling occurs because carbs spike your insulin, which increases your blood sugar levels and makes you feel tired.
This is why beef jerky is such a good alternative for carb-heavy snacks like granola bars. Beef jerky gives you energy without unnecessary processed carbs, so you'll have more predictable energy levels while promoting fat loss.
And since beef jerky has fewer than 5 grams of carbs per serving (Chomps has zero!), it’s officially considered a low-carb snack. Huzzah.
How to pick the right beef jerky
In the end, you are what you eat. Make sure you're staying healthy by choosing the right kind of jerky or beef stick.
Avoid beef jerky with high amounts of saturated fat
Saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature and raise your cholesterol, and rises in cholesterol are linked to increased risk of heart disease. This doesn’t mean all saturated fats are bad, just that you should eat them as part of a balanced diet.
The American Heart Association recommends getting only 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat, so exercise caution by checking the labels before buying.
Avoid beef jerky with additives like MSG
MSG (or monosodium glutamate) and other additives are often added during processing to tap into our brain’s desire to eat healthy proteins.
This is often referred to as the "Chinese restaurant syndrome" and is typically added into snack foods. The reason why chips and other junk food is so addicting is because they are literally targeting the parts of our brain that make us desire food. Glutamates release serotonin (the hormone that promotes happiness) and make us what to eat even more, even when the food is objectively terrible for us.
Eating jerky with MSG doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad for you, but MSG is typically coupled with other additives like nitrites and nitrates, and even if the research isn’t conclusive yet, it’s a safer bet to stick with what we know — that making beef jerky as natural as possible is the healthiest option.
Choose grass-fed jerky and avoid "mystery meat"
Unless the jerky you picked specifically states the type of meat and how it was made (opt for grass-fed options when possible since they contain higher amounts of heart-healthy Omega 3s), there’s a chance it’s a combination of processed meat cuts like a hotdog and sausage. This is not what you want.
The shortlist for choosing an ideal beef stick
- Low in saturated fats
- Lower in sodium
- Local, grass-fed beef (or other organic product)
- No added sugar
- High in protein but low in sodium
- Simplicity - meat, spices, and cooking
Simple enough, right?
Well, it may be harder than you think to find jerky that meets (pun intended) all of these requirements, and that’s exactly what led us to make Chomps — the healthiest beef stick on the market.
Why health nuts love Chomps
The reason why Chomps is the perfect beef stick is because we've taken all of these considerations and built them into a single snack. It's the right size. It has the right amount of protein. There's no MSG. There’s no added sugar. It’s grass-fed—essentially all of the ideal proportions and ingredients you could ever want, all packed into an energy-boosting, stomach-satiating beef stick of perfection.
We mean what we say:
- No GMOs
- No added sugar
- No gluten
- No soy
- No hormones
- No antibiotics
- No dairy
- No msg
- 100% grass-fed & finished
- Farm-fresh ingredients
- Tender, juicy, and flavorful
- 9 grams of protein
- 100 calories
That means no fillers. No binders. No bad farming practices. No anything else. By focusing on the basics, we cook up the best beef jerky made from the most humane sources so you can snack without feeling guilty.
We start with just a few all-natural ingredients, such as sustainably sourced, 100% grass-fed non-GMO beef or venison and a handful of spices like jalapeños, habeñeros, cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Michele Spring, a full-time working mom and paleo lifestyle blogger from Thriving On Paleo, says:
They kind of look like Slim Jim's, but that's where the resemblance ends. They are made from 100% Grass-fed beef, are free of any synthetic nitrates, nitrites, or MSG, are gluten-free, Whole30 approved, and are shelf stable for an entire year! I feel totally good about buying these, eating them, and feeding them to my family.
Now you can stop wondering, "is jerky healthy?" and start knowing that Chomps are. :)