Beef Jerky Nutrition Facts

Calories in Beef Jerky and Its Health Benefits

Beef Jerky
Juanmonino / Getty Images

Beef jerky is beef that's had most of the fat removed and either cut into strips or chopped fine and formed into strips. The meat is then marinated or flavored with a mixture of seasonings and salt and finally, dehydrated and packaged.

Beef jerky isn't generally thought of as a health food, but it can be a good source of protein and zinc. But it's almost always high in sodium. There are healthier types of jerky available, ​otherwise it's best to eat beef jerky only occasionally.

Beef Jerky Nutrition Information

One cup of beef jerky pieces has 369 calories, 30 grams protein, 23 grams fat, and about 10 grams carbohydrate. It also has about 537 milligrams potassium, 7 milligrams zinc, but also more than 1800 milligrams sodium. Nutrition information may vary based on what's used to flavor the beef jerky.

Beef jerky is also high in iron, magnesium, vitamin B12, and choline. On the other hand, it's low in both healthy fats and fiber.

Beef Jerky Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 Cup
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 369 
Calories from Fat 207 
Total Fat 23g 
Saturated Fat 10g44%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g 
Monounsaturated Fat 10g 
Cholesterol 43mg14%
Sodium 1873mg81%
Potassium 537mg11%
Carbohydrates 10g8%
Dietary Fiber 2g6%
Sugars 8g 
Protein 30g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% · Iron 27%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

    Beef Jerky Health Risks

    Eating red meat or processed meat has been associated with health problems such as a higher risk of some types of cancer.

    It's hard to know for sure, though, how bad red or processed meat is for your health because the studies that show this association also indicate that people who eat the most red meat also tend to have more unhealthy habits than non-meat eaters.

    Beef jerky typically has less fat than fresh red meat, it still can be a substantial source of fats, including saturated fat.

    Since beef jerky is usually high in sodium, it may not be a good choice for people who have high blood pressure or have been told they should avoid salt and sodium.

    Other Types of Jerky

    Jerky can also be made from poultry such as turkey or chicken, wild game such as venison, or lower fat versions of red meat such as elk or bison. Salmon jerky is quite popular and doesn't have all the saturated fat. These alternative forms of jerky are still high in protein but have a healthier fat profile. However they may still be high in sodium unless you specifically buy a brand made with low-sodium ingredients.

    Common Questions About Beef Jerky

    Is beef jerky good for low carb diets?

    Like any meat, beef jerky is low in carbohydrates so it will fit into a low carb diet as a snack. That doesn't mean it's good for any diet though. It's just low in carbs.

    Does eating beef jerky really cause cancer?

    Studies suggest eating a diet high in red meat and/or processed meat is associated with having a higher risk of cancer. But it really ins't that clear because, as we pointed out earlier, people who eat red meat (and processed meat) do a lot of things that aren't good for health. It's not likely we'll ever see a study that forces people to eat large amounts of beef jerky every day for a period of time that's long enough to determine any cancer risk.

    On the other hand, there also aren't any studies showing beef jerky is good for you.

    Are nitrites bad for me?

    A lot of beef jerky brands use sodium nitrite as a preservative. Sodium nitrite has been put forth as one possible reason that eating processed meats may cause cancer. Nitrites are also present in other foods, such as some veggies, fruit, and dairy products, so it's hard to know for sure, but it's probably not something you need to worry about.

    Choosing and Storing Beef Jerky

    Beef jerky is sold in most stores that sell any kind of food. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and large everything-stores all sell beef jerky.

    If you need to watch your salt intake, look for brands that are low in sodium. Beef jerky made from grass-fed beef may have a healthier fat profile and still be high in protein and very low in carbohydrates.

    Dehydration is a very old way of preserving foods and as long as it's done right, beef jerky can be stored at room temperature for quite a long time, although it still needs to be packaged properly. Keep beef jerky in a cool dry space and refrigerate any leftover jerky after you've opened the packaging.

    Tips for Making Beef Jerky

    It's not too hard to make your own beef jerky at home and it's a good way to control all the ingredients and the sodium content. A dehydrator is perfect for making beef jerky, but you can use your oven at a low temperature and get similar results.

    The biggest concern with making beef jerky is the possibility for contamination of salmonella and E. coli. Since dehydrators don't heat the meat up high enough to kill bacteria, the United States Department of Agriculture suggests heating your beef jerky meat to an internal temperature of 165  degrees Fahrenheit before dehydrating it. In addition, it's a good idea to keep homemade jerky in the refrigerator to prevent any bacterial growth.

    A Word From Verywell

    Beef jerky is a good source of protein and may be good for someone who wants a snack that's low in carbohydrates. But, it's not the healthiest food out there and should be enjoyed in moderation. Look for beef jerky with less sodium or experiment with homemade jerky.

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ToxFAQs for Nitrate and Nitrite.

    United States Department of Agriculture. Jerky and Food Safety.

    United States Department of Agriculture. Supertracker.

    World Health Organization. Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat.

    Continue Reading