Jerky is an attractive snack for athletes.
For one, it’s high in protein. But unlike other meat-based foods, jerky doesn’t have to be refrigerated. That makes it a convenient and easy on-the-go snack. Combine that with the fact that jerky tastes pretty darn good, and it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular. But is it actually healthy? Or is jerky just another junk food that’s unjustly earned a good reputation? STACK investigates.
Jerky is a simple food. It’s defined as “meat that has been cut into long strips and dried.” To make a basic jerky, all one needs is meat, salt and a low-temperature drying method. Jerky is naturally lean thanks to its low fat content. Since fat doesn’t dry, most of it must be trimmed off before the drying process.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, jerky can be made from almost any lean meat, including beef, pork, venison or smoked turkey breast.
Since it’s made from lean meat, jerky is always going to be high in protein. Protein is one of the most important nutrients for athletes. High-quality protein provides the amino acids that muscles need to repair and rebuild, allowing you to recover from exercise and get stronger over time. The body can also use protein as a source of energy.
The protein content of a one-ounce serving of Jack Links beef, chicken, turkey and pork jerky is 12 grams, 11 grams, 13 grams and 11 grams, respectively. So, there’s little variation between jerky types in terms of protein content. The average serving of jerky is high in protein and low in fat—both pluses. Thanks to the fact that it’s typically low in fat, jerky is also often low in calories. For example, the vast majority of KRAVE jerkies come in between 80-100 calories per serving.