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The Nutrition of Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is a kind of meat which has been trimmed of its fat, sliced into strips, marinated in liquid or a spice rub, and then smoked or dried using low heat. Beef jerky is a very popular (though hardly healthy) snack that is prevalent in big supermarkets all over the US. While beef jerky can be eaten fresh, a benefit of it is that it can be stored for a long time. The nutrition of beef jerky is very unhealthy because it is a processed and manufactured food that contains very high levels of salt.

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High Levels of Sodium

The big downside to beef jerky is the enormous quantity of sodium you take in with each 1 ounce serving. In such a serving, you are already exposing your body to 626 milligrams of sodium. This threatens to be a potential problem because with a small helping of beef jerky, you're already approaching your daily recommended intake levels of sodium. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines of America, the upper range of your daily sodium intake is 1,500 milligrams for people over 50, with slightly higher levels for younger people. Since you will ingest sodium through most of the meals you eat in a day, it is not advisable to eat beef jerky if you want to keep your sodium intake at the recommended daily levels.

High Levels of Saturated Fat

As if sodium levels weren't enough of a concern with beef jerky, the second part of the one-two combination of bad health presents itself in the high levels of saturated fat in a 1 ounce serving. Saturated fat is plainly harmful to your body because it raises your blood cholesterol if you eat too much of it. The biggest source for saturated fats is animal foods, which explains why it is so prevalent in beef jerky. Excessive amounts of saturated fats will have an unfavorable consequence for your heart, since it raises the risk of heart disease. The bad kind of cholesterol, called LDL, is raised too, and your risk for gaining weight increases if you eat too much saturated fat, largely due to the excessive calories it contains.

High Levels of Zinc

Unlike both sodium and saturated fats, zinc is actually good for you, so it is a pleasant development that the high levels of zinc in beef jerky are beneficial. The purpose of zinc in the human body is to foster growth and the repair and rebuilding of tissue. Zinc figures prominently in the healing of wounds, in the reproduction of cells and the upkeep of a healthy immune system. While beef jerky gives you a boost in your zinc levels, that's not enough to undo or even balance out the excess of unhealthy factors like sodium and unsaturated fats.

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