Portable, high in protein, and delicious! These are the words that come to mind for many people when they’re asked to describe beef jerky. Beef jerky makes a convenient snack during hikes, road trips, and as a pick-me-up to beat the midday slump. But if you’re wondering whether beef jerky is keto, here’s what you need to know about eating beef jerky on a low carb diet.
What Is Beef Jerky?
Beef jerky is a snack that’s made from lean cuts of beef, such as the top round, bottom round, flank, and sirloin. Avoiding fatty cuts ensures a longer shelf life for jerky.
Jerky is marinated with various sauces and spices, which may include sweeteners, to make it flavorful. Because of this, storebought beef jerky products vary in the number of carbs they contain. The marinated beef strips are then dried in a dehydrator, oven, or smoker for hours.
It’s believed that the Quechua tribe (descendants of the Incas) of South America was the first to make beef jerky. Now, millions of Americans and people worldwide consume beef jerky along with other meat snacks. 
Is Beef Jerky Keto-Friendly?
The short answer is yes, beef jerky can be eaten on the keto diet as long as it’s low-carb or carb-free. Recall that the keto diet limits your carb intake to less than 50 grams per day or close to zero grams, for those on a keto carnivore diet.
While meat alone has essentially no carbs, beef jerky seasoning or marinade often contains carbs, so you’ll want to check the package label. A typical 1-ounce serving of beef jerky provides: 
Calories: 116 kcal
Carbs: 3 grams (may be lower depending on ingredients used)
Fat: 7.3 grams
Protein: 9.4 grams
Beef jerky is also a good source of micronutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, choline, and sodium, which are all vital for your health whether or not you do keto.
Is Beef Jerky Healthy?
Some people think that because beef jerky has undergone a form of processing (drying or smoking), it’s unhealthy. The truth is that not all beef jerky is created equal. What makes beef jerky healthy or unhealthy is the ingredients used to make it.
Jerky that has been sliced, marinated with minimal ingredients (no unnecessary junk and fillers), dried, and packaged is basically healthy.
Below are some reasons it’s good for your health:
At 9.4 grams of protein per serving, beef jerky is high in protein, which helps you lose and maintain a healthy weight by reducing your hunger hormone ghrelin. 
Beef jerky is also a source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that increases brain serotonin. Serotonin is a “feel good” chemical messenger that can help stave off depression and promotes better sleep at night. 
Jerky coming from grass-fed cows is even better: Research shows that grass-fed beef contains higher levels of omega-3s. This helps optimize your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, lowering inflammation and possibly lowering your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 
Finally, the vitamins and minerals in beef jerky are important for your long-term success on keto. These nutrients are highly bioavailable, meaning that they’re easily absorbed and used by your body for various purposes like muscle contraction, hormone regulation, immune function, cell repair, and more. 
How to Choose the Best Beef Jerky for Keto
Since not all beef jerky is low-carb and sugar-free, make a habit of checking the nutrition facts label when buying online or at the grocery. You’ll generally want to avoid beef jerky that contains allergens like soy and gluten.
Make beef jerky fat bombs! In a bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, grated parmesan, and salt and pepper (to taste). Make several balls from the mixture and roll the balls in chopped beef jerky. Freeze for up to an hour.
Beef Jerky and the Keto Diet
Without a doubt, beef jerky is keto-approved. It’s protein-packed, which promotes weight loss and boosts your mood, and super low carb. Beef jerky can certainly be made at home, but if you want something ready-to-eat, remember to choose products with quality ingredients, zero added sugar, and zero additives.
Tiffany is a health writer and registered nurse who believes in low-carb nutrition, exercise, and living simply. She has carefully followed the ketogenic diet (mostly clean keto) since 2019, which helped her lose 44 pounds, heal PCOS, and gain more energy. She hopes to educate and inspire others through her content here at Ketogenic.com and on her personal blog Ketogenic Buddies.
Fooddata Central Search Results. FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167536/nutrients
Leidy, H. J., Clifton, P. M., Astrup, A., Wycherley, T. P., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Luscombe-Marsh, N. D., Woods, S. C., & Mattes, R. D. (2015). The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 101(6), 1320S–1329S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.084038
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