Is Beef Jerky Good For Weight Loss? Should You Snack On It 2024?

is beef jerky good for weight loss
Beef jerky can be a healthy weight-loss snack. Photo: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

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Is beef jerky good for weight loss? The answer is yes, it can be. Beef jerky is a low-calorie, high-protein snack.[1] Based on these criteria, beef jerky can be beneficial for weight loss. However, not all beef jerky is created equal.

Different brands process their beef jerky differently, adding various ingredients to the beef. Salt is typically added to beef jerky to dry and preserve the meat, and consuming excess salt may contribute to fluid retention[2] or water weight. Many brands also add sugar to their beef jerky.

This article explains why beef jerky can be a great weight-loss snack and outlines tips to enjoy it healthfully. 

Is Beef Jerky Good For Losing Weight?

Yes, beef jerky is good for weight loss because it is low in calories and fat while high in protein. Snacking on beef jerky can help curb hunger and prevent snacking on other foods that are not as weight-loss friendly.

However, beef jerky ingredients vary depending on the brand. Some may contain excess salt and sugar that can hinder weight loss. Additionally, processed meats may pose health risks.

To achieve the best results, consume beef jerky in moderation and read package labels to choose a brand that has the fewest added ingredients.

Is Beef Jerky Good For Weight Loss?

is beef jerky good for weight loss
Consume beef jerky in moderation. Photo: HandmadePictures/Shutterstock

Yes. Beef jerky can be good for weight loss when consumed in moderation. The main ingredient in beef jerky is beef, a good source of protein. High-protein diets have been shown to be beneficial[3] for weight loss.

Clinical trials show that consuming adequate protein is effective at reducing body weight, without a reduced-calorie diet. Protein helps reduce[4] body fat and triglycerides while preserving lean body mass. Because protein is essential for building muscle mass,[5] consuming adequate amounts can help support exercise outcomes and weight loss goals.

Beef jerky is also low in calories.[1] One large piece, or 20 grams, of beef jerky, contains roughly 82 calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[6] suggests choosing lower-calorie foods to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

In addition to being high in protein and low in calories, beef jerky is also low in fat. Because beef jerky is not fattening, it can be considered a good weight-loss snack. You can enjoy beef jerky during the day or in the evening if you have a late-night craving.

The Nutritional Value Of Beef Jerky

Beef jerky contains several vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients[1] that can support health and weight loss. They include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, and choline.

Nutritional values of beef jerky will vary slightly depending on the manufacturer. Some brands add ingredients, such as sugar, that may increase calories or reduce nutrient levels. Conversely, some brands add more spices like onion[7] that may enhance nutritional properties.

Beef jerky also contains a significant amount of sodium While small amounts of sodium are necessary for body functioning, many people consume too much.[8] The daily recommended amount of sodium per day is less than 2,300 mgs, while the average American consumes 3,400 mg daily.

One large piece of beef jerky contains 356 mgs of sodium. If you consume beef jerky regularly, monitor your salt intake from other food sources to ensure you are staying within the recommended limit.

Tips For Snacking On Beef Jerky For Weight Loss 

While beef jerky can be a great weight-loss snack, it’s important to consume it responsibly.

Consume In Moderation

Does beef jerky make you fat? Not necessarily, however, because beef jerky is a salty, processed food, it’s still best to consume it in moderation. Beef jerky should not replace meals. Instead, it can be a healthy snack option once in a while.

Consult a doctor or nutritionist for specific guidance on a portion size and eating frequency that suits your body and weight loss goals.

Balance Your Nutrients

Eating a balanced diet[9] that contains healthy fat, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates is important for overall health. Beef jerky is high in protein but contains little fat, fiber, and almost no carbohydrates.

Balance your meals by eating beef jerky with healthy sources of fat, such as avocado, as well as sources of fiber[10] from plant foods.

Potential Downsides & Precautions 

Although beef jerky can be a healthy weight-loss snack, there are potential downsides to it, especially if you overconsume it.

Extra Ingredients

Always read labels to see what other ingredients are in beef jerky. Beef alone may not be problematic, but the added ingredients can be.

Many brands contain preservatives and salt to keep the meat from spoiling. Too much sodium can cause fluid retention,[1] which can lead to water weight. If you find yourself eating too much salt, drink more water to flush it out.

Excess sodium may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.[11] If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for cardiovascular disease, experts advise sticking to a low-sodium diet and consuming less beef jerky.

Some brands also add sugar to their beef jerky to enhance the flavor. Too much sugar has been linked to weight gain and obesity,[12] and so choose the right beef jerky for your health carefully.

Be mindful of these additives in your beef jerky. The best beef jerky brands have the fewest and most natural ingredients, which can be found on the nutrition label.

Possible Health Risks

Evidence suggests that there is a link between red and processed meat[13] and bowel cancer. Consuming red and/or processed meat may also increase the risk[14] of stomach, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Some research suggests that this is due to the nitrates and salt in processed meats or the amount of iron and fat in red meat. 

Storage

While beef jerky is smoked and preserved, it will not stay fresh forever. Food safety guidelines report that commercially made beef jerky can be safely stored[15] for up to 12 months. Always check the package for the “best by” date. 

Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle 

Beef jerky can be a healthy and convenient snack, but will not initiate nor sustain weight loss alone. Instead, include small amounts of beef jerky as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime can boost your protein consumption and muscle building.

However, there is more to an overall healthy diet. This includes consuming nutrient dense whole foods such as grass fed beef and staying away from processed foods and their artificial ingredients. You can also consider adding other healthy weight-loss snacks such as cucumbers, nuts, and berries. 

For additional weight loss support, ask your doctor or nutritionist about taking weight loss supplements such as the best fat burner. You may also want to explore special diets such as keto diets.

Conclusion

Beef jerky is a low-calorie, high-protein snack that can be beneficial for weight loss. Because it has few calories and little fat, beef jerky is unlikely to make you gain weight. Additionally, consuming protein can help curb cravings while preserving muscle mass.

However, beef jerky is highly processed, posing potential health risks if consumed in large amounts. Processed meat has been linked with several types of cancer and is also high in sodium which can cause water weight and increase the risk of heart disease.

For best weight loss results, beef jerky should be consumed in moderation. Do not rely on beef jerky as a meal or consume it in excess. Rather, enjoy the occasional piece of beef jerky as a part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is beef jerky healthier than chips?

It can be, but this depends on the specific brands of beef jerky and chips. Each can be a good snack, but it depends on the processing and added ingredients.

Is beef jerky junk food?

Not necessarily. Junk food has no finite definition. The term “junk food” refers generally to unhealthy foods, which can be somewhat subjective. Beef jerky that is made with only a few, natural ingredients can be healthy.

Is it OK to eat beef jerky every day?

Yes, however, if you eat beef jerky daily, consume small amounts.

Is beef jerky high in calories?

No. One large piece of beef jerky contains roughly 82 calories.

Is beef jerky bad for my health?

It can be if overly consumed. Processed and red meats have been linked with cancer. The excess salt in cured meat may also pose health risks. However, consuming small amounts infrequently is unlikely to negatively impact health.

How long is beef jerky good for?

Most commercial beef jerky will stay fresh for up to 12 months. Refer to the package’s “best by” date.

Can I eat beef jerky instead of a meal?

This is not advisable. Beef jerky should not replace whole, nutritious foods. Instead, add beef jerky to an overall healthy diet. This, along with a good exercise routine, can help you lose weight.

Is beef jerky healthier than ground beef?

It depends. It is generally better to consume unprocessed foods. Ground beef that has no additives can be healthier than beef jerky. However, beef jerky tends to have less fat than fresh meat.

+ 15 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Usda.gov. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167536/nutrients.
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  6. CDC (2023). Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight . [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html#:~:text=Try%20a%20lower%2Dcalorie%20version.%20Use%20lower%2Dcalorie%20ingredients%20or%20prepare%20food%20differently.
  7. Stoica, F., Rațu, R.N., Ionuț Dumitru Veleșcu, Nicoleta Stănciuc and Râpeanu, G. (2023). A comprehensive review on bioactive compounds, health benefits, and potential food applications of onion (Allium cepa L.) skin waste. Trends in Food Science and Technology, [online] 141, pp.104173–104173. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2023.104173.
  8. Center (2022). Sodium in Your Diet. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet#:~:text=Know%20the%20Daily%20Value.%20The%20Daily%20Values%20are%20reference%20amounts%20of%20nutrients%20to%20consume%20or%20not%20to%20exceed%20each%20day.%20The%20Daily%20Value%20for%20sodium%20is%20less%20than%202%2C300%20milligrams%20(mg)%20per%20day.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A health coach specializing in Integrative Nutrition, I approach wellness with a holistic and functional medicine perspective. As a writer, I simplify intricate topics such as nutrition, gut and hormone health, mental well-being, and spiritual health,… See More