Americans criminally overeat sodium. While the FDA recommends around 2,300 milligrams per day (which is only about a teaspoon!), we consistently eat around 3,400 milligrams each day — a whopping 150% of what we should.
Yes, it's tasty, but that taste comes with consequences: high-sodium diets can increase your blood pressure, make your heart work harder, and lead to higher chances of strokes and heart disease[*].
It's smart to evaluate your diet and see where you're getting most of your sodium from. The usual culprits are pizza, lunch meats, chips, and popcorn, but where do cured meats like beef jerky and beef sticks fit in?
Let's find out.
Is beef jerky high in sodium?
In general, yes, beef jerky is considered a high-sodium snack, but there are lower-sodium beef jerky products that you can build into your diet.
The reason why beef jerky and other similar products are so packed with sodium is because they are cured meats. Curing is a method for preserving meat that uses salt, and because salt is made of sodium, that's where all those high sodium values come from.
Most run-of-the-mill jerky products have between 400-600mg of sodium per serving, and many of those have multiple servings per bag. So if you're watching your sodium intake, you need to be cautious with the types you buy and keep an eye on how much you eat.
What is considered high sodium vs. low sodium?
It helps to have a rough range when evaluating sodium in food.
Generally speaking, items with 5% (115mg) or less of your DV are items considered low sodium. Anything higher than 20% (460mg) is considered in high sodium[*].
Some people raise the high-sodium bar to above 40%, but considering sodium is everywhere and a lot of nutrition estimates are rough, I think keeping it at 20% makes more sense.
So if we look at beef jerky with that range in mind, there are almost no beef jerky products that can be considered “low sodium”. If you keep your serving sizes small, then yes, but we all know how hard it is to keep snacking at bay.
There are, however, beef jerky products that can be considered lower sodium (around the 10% range), and that's what we're going to look at.
Lower sodium jerky brands
Assuming you aren't extremely sensitive to sodium, then the options below are good staples you can rely on, especially when compared to the sodium and additive-filled jerky brands found in most gas stations.
Note: these recommendations are specific products pulled from these brands, so if you switch flavors then make sure you look at the sodium content before buying them.
Jerky's Gourmet has only 85mg per ounce serving and two servings per bag, making it the lowest sodium beef jerky product we know of.
It's also gluten-free, free from nitrate, and made with meat that isn't filled with antibiotics and hormones — that's my kind of jerky!
Sodium per serving: 85mg
You have to be careful about Epic's flavors because some of them are really high in sodium, but their Bison Bacon Cranberry bar doesn't have much — only 310mg per bar. The individual packaging also helps reduce the chance of chronic over snacking.
You can find Epic in many grocery stores, but you can also order online via the link above.
Sodium per serving: 310mg
We know we're tooting our own horn here, but what can we say, we worked really hard to make one of the healthiest, best-tasting, and all-natural meat snacks on the market, and we're genuinely proud of it.
Our original beef sticks only have 380mg of sodium per entire stick, and they are perfect for the office, hikes, family road trips, and keeping no-mess snacks in the pantry that you know are healthy down to the last chomp.
See for yourself why healthy eaters and families all over the U.S. love Chomps.
Sodium per serving: 380mg
If the branding alone doesn't convince you, the taste and nutrition facts will. Baja Jerky's Traditional Beef has 200mg per ounce serving, so assuming you don't slam a whole bag in one sitting, then it definitely fits into a lower-sodium diet.
Baja jerky is also gluten-free, made without hormones, doesn't have nitrites, and is super tender.
Sodium per serving: 200mg
Tanka is an awesome Native American company that gives back to its community by building libraries, colleges, and other important public services. They also make fantastic food, and their bison bars only have 260mg sodium per bar, making them a good lower-sodium option for your pantry.
Sodium per serving: 260mg
Other things to look for when buying jerky
As important as sodium is, there are a lot of other ingredients to keep an eye on when shopping for good beef jerky. Here's how to make sure you're buying food that's good for your body and your taste buds.
Avoid MSG and other artificial preservatives
A bunch of jerky and beef products have MSG made from soy protein along with other preservatives that make their snacks have artificially long shelf lives. These ingredients can increase your odds of becoming obese, developing heart disease, and even getting cancer[*].
Skip the sugar unless it's natural
Outside of cranberries, dates, and other natural sources of sugar, added sugars like high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to both your health and the environment. If the meat is good, then you shouldn't need to dress it up, right?
Stick to a small ingredients list
In general, the shorter the ingredient list, the better the product. If you use good meat, have good manufacturing practices, and care about the health of your customers, then you don't need to fill your products with junk.
That's why Chomps Original Beef only has:
100% grass-fed and finished beef, water, sea salt, encapsulated lactic acid, celery juice, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, and coriander.
Nothing more, nothing less!
Choose companies that prioritize health over efficiency
The modern industrial meat industry is plagued by practices that prioritize efficiency over the health of the animals and our society, and there's no excuse — regenerative agriculture is possible at scale, is tastier, and is better for our environment.
One of the best ways we can fight back against the hormone and antibiotic-filled products is to choose companies that prioritize our health and our environment.
The bottom line
By nature, beef jerky is created via a process called curing, and curing uses salt to give flavor and preserve meat.
Because salt is made of sodium, this means beef jerky tends to have high sodium content, but there are brands that use lower amounts of sodium and instead allow the quality of their meat and spices to speak for themselves.
When looking for good beef jerky and meat snacks, go with companies who clearly prioritize health and sustainable farming — it's better for our planet and your body.