Beef jerky is a high-energy snack that can fuel you through a vigorous workout or intense bout of exercise. This snack contains a hefty dose of protein, with 9.41 grams per 1-ounce serving, and supplies certain key vitamins and minerals as well. The meat does have a downside, however, because it can be high in fat and sodium, which decreases its nutritional value.
Calories and Fat
A 1-ounce portion of beef jerky contains 116 calories and 7.26 grams of fat, of which 3 grams are saturated. While beef jerky also contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, much of the fat in the food is saturated. If your diet contains large amounts of saturated fat, you're at an increased risk for heart disease. A diet high in saturated fat can boost your cholesterol levels. Too much saturated fat as a regular part of your diet can also elevate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Iron and Zinc
Meat, including beef jerky, supplies a good dose of iron and zinc, two essential minerals that help boost your immune system. Iron encourages proper production of red blood cells, and zinc helps your body heal wounds. A serving of beef jerky contains 1.54 milligrams of iron toward the daily goal of 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women, ages 19 to 50. The same serving of beef jerky provides 2.3 milligrams of the 11 milligrams of zinc men require each day and the 8 milligrams that women need.
A nutritional drawback to beef jerky is the large amount of sodium added to help preserve the meat, extend its shelf life and enhance the flavor. Most healthy adults should limit their intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. More than that on a regular basis can put you at an increased risk for stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. A serving of beef jerky contains 590 milligrams of sodium.
Look for beef jerky that contains small amounts of saturated fat. Many brands manufacture thin strip versions of meat, which are often lower in total fat and saturated fat. Opt for low-sodium versions of beef jerky as well; they are more nutritious than traditional versions. Making your own beef jerky at home allows you to control the cuts of beef you use and how much sodium you add to the food. Use a food dehydrator as a simple way to make beef jerky.