Jerky is a tasty snack, and a great source of protein too. The problem with the beef jerky that you can buy in supermarkets, however, is that it is not always suitable for people who are following a Paleo diet. Eating Paleo means eating food that is as close in form to what nature intended as possible — that means avoiding preservatives and colourings and sticking to foods that are as fresh as possible. Paleo diet followers also avoid grains and dairy products, because our caveman ancestors would not have eaten a lot of that kind of food.
What’s Wrong with Supermarket Beef Jerky?
Traditional jerky is, effectively, dried-out meat. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, a lot of the jerky that you can by in the supermarket is made from mechanically separated meats and has a huge amount of sodium added to it, as well as MSG to make it taste even more salty. This is not something that you want to be putting into your body if you can avoid it. The good news is that it’s actually pretty easy to make your own jerky, and if you do so you can avoid the unhealthy and unnatural ingredients and get something that tastes great and is better for your health.
Making Your Own Jerky
One of the best beef jerky recipes that you can make at home is a spiced jerky made from grass-fed beef. To make this kind of jerky, simply marinade the beef in your favourite spices overnight before you dry it out, and then cut it up into thin strips. If you don’t have the confidence to make jerky using proper cuts of beef steak, then you can always make it from ground beef instead. Ground beef is a little easier to work with, and it still tastes great. You can use chillies, barbecue sauce, peppers or garlic to add flavour.
If you want smoked jerky, then you can do this by treating your meat with liquid smoke. However, before you use the smoke, read the ingredients carefully. Some cheap brands of liquid smoke add unnecessary ingredients to bulk out their product. You should try to choose one that is made from pure smoke instead. The beauty of making jerky for yourself is that you can choose how thick the strips are, how crunchy you prefer them and how strong the flavours are too. Once you get used to making your own jerky, you will find that it is easy to prepare a few bags at the start of the week. You can carry them around with you to consume at your leisure, to add to salads and to share with your friends and family as a healthy snack.
Why Eat Jerky?
Jerky is a great snack. It can be used as a part of a main meal, or it can be consumed instead of crisps or chocolate. It fills you up and provides you with protein. If you choose high-quality grass-fed beef, you will also enjoy the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to choose grass-fed beef, however, because cows fed on a diet of grains instead of grass tend to have much lower-quality meat with a less favourable fat profile.
The Health Benefits of Beef
Beef was, until relatively recently, a meat that was written off by nutritionists because it contains a lot of saturated fat. This thinking is not ideal; almost half of the fat in beef comes from a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. This is a heart-healthy fat — the same kind of fat that is in olive oil. In addition, most of the saturated fat in beef is the good kind — the variety that lowers LDL cholesterol and helps to reduce the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol in your blood stream. This means that it can help to prevent heart disease and reduce your risk of suffering from a stroke.
Beef is also a good source of protein — the building blocks of muscles — and it is rich in iron too, which is important for circulatory health. Many adults, especially those who are athletes or work in manual jobs, do not eat enough protein to sustain their activity levels. Protein helps with the building of new muscles as well as repair and recovery. The guidelines published by the World Health Organization and by individual governments tend to be fairly low, and they assume a sedentary lifestyle. If you are active, you should aim to eat around 1g of protein per kilo of lean body mass, which is significantly more than the protein RDA quoted in the USA and UK.
Other Kinds of Jerky
Beef is the most popular meat to use for jerky, but there is no reason why you could not dry out other meats and preserve them in the way that you make jerky with beef. Turkey is a popular choice for jerky too, and if it is prepared properly it can taste great.
Remember that our cavemen ancestors were more advanced than we give them credit for. They were aware of the importance of preserving meats, and did so using a combination of salt and drying the meats out. They were also able to perform basic cooking tasks, and recent research suggests that they did consume some grains, but only in very low quantities. Grains are not advisable as a part of the Paleo diet because gluten can irritate your digestive system, especially in the quantities that most Western cultures consume it.
If you want to try following the Paleo diet, you should aim to build your diet around fresh vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken or turkey and wild salmon or other fish. Whole cuts of meat are the best choice, but there is nothing wrong with ground beef or jerky that is made exclusively from fresh ingredients if that is easier for you to source. When making your own jerky, use sea salt instead of table salt and avoid “low sodium” salts or processed spice mixes.