How Much Beef Jerky is Too Much? A Guide to Moderation

Beef jerky makes a tasty, protein-packed snack that can keep you fueled between meals. But with its high sodium content and cancer risk concerns, how much beef jerky can you eat before it becomes unhealthy? Here’s a complete look at beef jerky consumption and how to enjoy it in moderation.

Benefits of Beef Jerky

Beef jerky offers several nutrition benefits:

  • High in protein – A 1-ounce serving provides 9g of protein to promote fullness and muscle building.

  • Low in fat – Around 7g of fat per ounce, mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

  • Few carbs – Just 3g of carbs per ounce, making it keto-friendly.

  • Convenient – Shelf-stable with a long shelf life, making it an easy on-the-go snack.

  • Nutritious – Provides some iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins A, B12 and more.

When consumed in moderation, beef jerky can be a healthy addition to your diet.

Downsides of Too Much Beef Jerky

Eating too much beef jerky has some potential drawbacks:

  • High sodium – 1 ounce contains over 450mg sodium, 20% of the daily value. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure.

  • Cancer risk – Processed meats like jerky may increase colon cancer risk by 18% when eaten daily.

  • Lack of nutrients – It doesn’t provide much fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E or phytonutrients.

  • Rapid weight gain – At over 100 calories per ounce, excess beef jerky adds calories and fat leading to weight gain.

  • Elevated cholesterol – The saturated fat and cholesterol may negatively impact heart health.

While beef jerky can be enjoyed as an occasional snack due to its convenience and nutrition benefits, it should not be a dietary staple.

How Much Beef Jerky is Considered Moderate?

To balance the pros and cons of beef jerky, here are some guidelines for moderate intake:

  • Limit to 1 to 2 ounces per day at most.

  • Enjoy no more than 3 to 4 times per week.

  • Rotate with other healthy proteins like nuts, yogurt and eggs.

  • Pay attention to portions. Track ounces instead of just eating by the bag.

  • Skip jerky at least a couple days a week.

  • Pair with fiber-rich fruits, veggies or whole grains to offset the sodium.

As a high-protein snack, a serving or two of beef jerky a few times a week can fit into a balanced diet. But limitless daily jerky is not recommended.

Signs You’re Eating Too Much Beef Jerky

Watch for these signs that you may need to cut back on the beef jerky:

  • You’re exceeding 2 ounces per day most days.

  • You’re gaining weight unexpectedly.

  • Your blood pressure is elevated.

  • You’re often highly thirsty and retaining fluid.

  • It’s your primary protein source instead of lean meats/fish/poultry.

  • You’re substituting jerky for more nutrient-dense snacks like fruit, nuts and yogurt.

If you experience any of these, reducing jerky portions and frequency can help restore balance.

Tips to Enjoy Beef Jerky in Moderation

Follow these tips to keep your beef jerky intake moderate:

  • Measure portions – Stick to 1-2 ounce servings. Don’t just eat from the bag.

  • Read labels – Seek low sodium options under 500mg per serving.

  • Pair with produce – Eat jerky with fruits or veggies for more nutrients.

  • Rotate proteins – Substitute nuts, eggs or other proteins to mix it up.

  • Make your own – Create homemade jerky to control ingredients like sodium.

  • Skip nitrites – Look for uncured jerkies without these preservatives.

  • Eat mindfully – Savor the jerky without distractions and stop when satisfied.

Healthy Swaps for Beef Jerky

If you want to cut back on jerky, try these nutritious high-protein snacks instead:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Cottage cheese
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters with apple slices
  • Edamame
  • Greek yogurt
  • Smoked salmon
  • Grass-fed cheese sticks
  • Tuna packs

The Bottom Line

Beef jerky can absolutely be part of a healthy, balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Stick within 1-2 ounce portion sizes just several times per week while focusing on other wholesome proteins and snacks too. This allows you to benefit from jerky’s convenience and nutrition without overdoing the sodium, calories and cancer risk concerns.

Frequency of entities:

  • beef jerky: 20
  • sodium: 5
  • protein: 4
  • cancer risk: 3
  • calories: 2
  • cholesterol: 2
  • weight gain: 2

How Much Jerky is Too Much Jerky? – Podcast #60


Can you eat too much beef jerky?

Beef jerky is best consumed in moderation. Jerky is high in sodium and is a processed food. Those diagnosed with conditions such as hypertension or heart disease or who require a low-sodium diet should avoid excess consumption of beef jerky as a snack.

Can I eat a whole bag of beef jerky?

Though beef jerky is healthy, avoid eating too much of it, as it’s high in sodium and may come with the same health risks that are linked to eating processed meats.

How many pieces is 1 oz of beef jerky?

Number of Pieces
Item Weight
‎1 Ounces
Net Content Weight
‎1 Ounces

How much jerky per person?

Generally, a serving of beef jerky is 1 oz. or 28 grams. That means my 1/4 Lb. Big Bag contains four servings of beef jerky.

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