I absolutely love beef jerky. It's chewy, tasty, and an extremely rich source of lean protein. It's smokey taste is just plain heavenly, and it still represents a large portion of my in-between meal snacks along with fish and other lean meat sources. It's great to snack on when you're on a trip of any kind, whether it be a hike, a road trip, a day on the water, or pretty much anywhere else honestly. It's packed with plenty of nutritional benefits too, enough for me to strongly suggest trying some in your diet.
But what exactly is jerky? Well, it's basically meat with all the moisture and fat removed, leaving the lean protein as the only real substance left. It's usually dried through a marination and smoking process, where there are a few preservatives added to increase shelf life even more. This is my only "beef" with jerky, which is that a lot of it has a high sodium content due to the required preservation. Most jerky you find at the supermarket will have between 500-700mg per serving, which is manageable, but should be watched. You can find low sodium beef jerky though, and if you like it as much as I do this is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.
So what are the health benefits of beef jerky, or actually, pretty much every jerky out there?
Low Fat/Fat Free: Almost all the fat in the meat is removed during the curing/drying/smoking process, and therefore you don't have to worry about taking in fat with your protein like you might with a less lean source of protein such as steak, or a burger patty. To confirm this I just pulled out a pack of Jack Links Steakhouse Beef Jerky and indeed, it only has 1g of fat per serving, only half of which is saturated. That's plenty low in my book.
High Protein Content: Jerky usually contains between 12g and 15g of protein PER SERVING (1 oz). That's a verrryyy dense protein source, and the main reason why I love this food so much. To put things in perspective, even the leanest chicken breast only has about 9g of protein per 1 oz. That's a big difference, and is a definite reason why anyone looking to build/maintain muscle should love jerky for its protein punch.
Low Carb: Beef Jerky (and other jerky) tends to be very low in carbohydrates, which is great if you're trying to cut back on carbs a bit and lose a little body fat. Looking again on my beef jerky package I'm seeing 4 net carbs per 1 oz of jerky. And those are sugar carbs. That's not much at all, and definitely won't make much of a dent in your macros. I'd suggest trying to find a jerky with even less sugar than this package, and you should be able to cut those carbs down to almost nothing. Beef jerky can be quite the diet food!
It's tough: Here's an interesting little tidbit. Tougher foods (or foods that just in general require you to chew more) tend to fill you up faster, because your body has more time to absorb chemicals in the food that tell your brain you've eaten enough. Beef jerky makes you work hard, and believe me after one serving of the stuff you're ready to rest that jaw. For this reason it's quite possible that beef jerky can be much more satiating for it's size than you might have originally thought. Try some out, see how quickly you fill up!
Vitamins and Minerals: Beef Jerky isn't a particularly amazing vitamin source, however I have to give some credit where credit is due, and beef jerky does have a wide array of vitamins, even if it's not very dense with any one of them. Vitamins and minerals in jerky include vitamin K, B-6, B-12, riboflavin, folic acid, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. Not bad for dried meat.
And while the title of this article is in regards to the most popular kind of jerky, beef jerky, there are MANY other kinds of jerky on the market, some of which I bet you'd never even considered. Jerky.com sells beef jerky, buffalo jerky, alligator jerky, ostrich jerky, venison jerky, and turkey jerky. Check them out, and pick up a bag or two. They sell low sodium, low carb, and low calorie jerky, and I'd definitely recommend trying their product.
BTW, that first picture was actually of ostrich jerky, not beef. Bet I fooled you!
Chew Vigorously, enjoy the flavor, and as always, good luck!