In its simplest form, beef jerky consists of strips of dried beef. However, producers of beef jerky often brine the beef before the drying process and may also grind it, adding in herbs, spices and other flavorings before forming the mixture into strips. Historically, people dried beef to make it less perishable to increase storage parameters. This food provides high quality protein, a range of B vitamins and many minerals, but it is quite high in sodium.
Calories and Fat
A 3.5 oz. serving of beef jerky contains 150 calories. This amount of calories makes it a good choice for a snack, as it is good practice to keep snacks in the 100 to 200 calorie range. You consume 1.9 g of fat per serving and roughly half of this derives from saturated fat. While 0.9 g of saturated fat may not seem like a significant quantity, you should limit your consumption to 15 g or less per day as eating more may contribute to blocked arteries and heart problems.
Protein and Carbohydrates
Beef jerky contains 31.1 g of protein per serving, or 55.5 to 67.6 percent of the amount you need each day. The protein is complete, which means it provides all the essential amino acids your body requires to function at optimal levels. Each serving of beef jerky has 2.8 g of carbohydrates. According to MayoClinic.com, you should consume 225 to 325 g of this macronutrient each day.
Including beef jerky in your diet boosts your phosphorus intake. Each serving provides 20 percent of the daily recommended intake of this mineral, which influences the effectiveness of your kidneys. You’ll also get 16 percent of the daily value for iron, as well as lesser amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
Beef jerky is an excellent source of vitamin B-12, with 39 percent of the amount you require daily. The vitamin B-12 in this meat helps your body produce DNA. Several other B vitamins are present in beef jerky, too, including thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6 and niacin. You’ll also take in a small portion of pantothenic acid.
If you are healthy, consuming beef jerky occasionally will likely not influence your blood pressure, but avoid beef jerky otherwise as it contains high quantities of sodium. Each serving has 2,790 mg, more than the recommended 2,300 mg daily for those without hypertension or heart problems. The suggested limit for people with health problems stands at 1,500 mg. Consider making beef jerky at home without brining to control the amount of sodium.
- Food Network; Beef Jerky; Alton Brown; 2005
- Fitbit: Beef Jerky, Cured, Dried
- MayoClinic.com; Healthy Diet: End the Guesswork With These Nutrition Guidelines; February 2011
- MedlinePlus; Protein in Diet; David Zieve, et al.; Jul 21, 2009
- "The American Journal of Gastroenterology"; Endoscopic Resection for Barrett's High-Grade Dysplasia and Early Esophageal...; Alan Moss, et al.; February 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Phosphorus