Although beef jerky is low in carbohydrates and provides some essential minerals, it isn't a particularly healthy snack because of its high fat and sodium content. Jerky, like other processed meats, may also increase your risk for certain health conditions. Although it may be praised as a good source of protein, it may not be the healthiest snack to reach for.
An ounce of beef jerky contains 115 calories, 9.3 grams of protein, 3.1 grams of carbohydrates and 7.2 grams of fat, including 3 grams of saturated fat. This is 11 percent of the daily value for fat and 15 percent of the DV for saturated fat. Saturated fat can increase your risk for high cholesterol and heart disease.
Each serving of beef jerky contains 11 percent of the DV for phosphorus, 15 percent of the DV for zinc and 24 percent of the DV for sodium, as well as small amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. Phosphorus is essential for forming strong bones and DNA, and you need zinc to keep your immune system healthy and heal wounds. The high sodium content of beef jerky may contribute to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, especially if you also consume a lot of other high-sodium foods.
Potential Health Effects
Processed meats are among the least healthy types of meat. Eating processed meats may increase your risk for colon and lung cancers, according to a study published in "PLOS Medicine" in December 2007. This type of meat may also increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to another study published in December 2012 in "Current Atherosclerosis Reports."
Food Safety Issues
Beef jerky that isn't made properly can cause food poisoning. The meat must be heated to a safe temperature of 160 or 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then kept at a temperature of at least 130 degrees throughout the drying process. Otherwise, bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, may survive the dehydrating process, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commercially produced jerky is made following the appropriate guidelines and is considered safe.
- CNN Money: Beef Jerky Gets a Healthy Makeover
- Health-Alicious-Ness.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool
- Consumer Reports: Best Beef Jerky and Meat Sticks
- PLOS Medicine: A Prospective Study of Red and Processed Meat Intake in Relation to Cancer Risk
- Current Atherosclerosis Reports: Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Jerky and Food Safety
- Linus Pauling Institute: Phosphorus
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- HelpGuide.org: Choosing Healthy Fats
- Centers for Disease Control: Sodium: The Facts