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Is Jerky Keto-Friendly?

Jerky on a kitchen counter

'Is Jerky Keto-Friendly?' is a question that might seem simple at first, but as we delve into the carb content, health implications, and other aspects of this popular snack, we find that the answer is a bit more complex.

While jerky is a high-protein, nutrient-rich food, its relatively high net carb content can pose a challenge for those strictly following a ketogenic diet.

This article provides an in-depth exploration of jerky in the context of keto, discussing everything from its carbohydrate content, potential health effects on a keto diet, to keto-compatible alternatives.

The aim is to enable readers to make informed dietary choices that align with their keto lifestyle.

Let's dive in and unravel the intricacies of incorporating jerky into a keto-focused regimen.


  • While jerky is a high-protein snack, its high net carb content may pose challenges for individuals strictly following a ketogenic diet.
  • Consuming jerky could potentially knock your body out of ketosis, disrupting the metabolic state targeted in a keto diet.
  • Discover why maintaining ketosis with jerky in your diet can be a balancing act.

Is Jerky Keto-Friendly?

Now, let's address the burning question – Is jerky keto-friendly? As you've probably guessed from our quick answer in the introduction, jerky and keto aren't the best of pals. Now let's delve into why.

When we talk about the ketogenic diet, we're focusing on a way of eating that is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. The aim is typically to keep your daily carbohydrate intake below 50 grams, and for those who are particularly strict, it could be as low as 20 grams.

When we look at jerky, a popular high-protein snack, it's easy to get fooled into thinking it's perfect for keto. After all, protein is a crucial part of our diet. However, the trouble begins when we zero in on the carbohydrate content of jerky.

A serving size of jerky, which is usually around 100 grams, contains 9.2 grams of net carbs. While that might not seem like a lot on its own, remember our daily carb limit needs to stay below 50 grams, and for some, below 20 grams.

This means that if you were to snack on a 100-gram serving of jerky, you'd already be consuming nearly half or even all your daily allotment of carbs in one go, leaving little room for other nutrient-rich foods.

Can Jerky be Incorporated into a Strict Keto Diet?

Next, let's address another common question - Can jerky be incorporated into a strict keto diet? The answer to this requires understanding the nature of a strict keto diet and how it differs from a more relaxed approach.

In a strict keto diet, the daily carb limit can be as low as 20 grams. Now, considering that a 100-gram serving of jerky alone contains 9.2 grams of net carbs, it's evident that it would consume a significant portion of this limit. Therefore, it becomes quite challenging, if not impossible, to fit jerky into a strict keto diet without tipping over the daily carb limit.

But let's consider a situation where you want to indulge in some jerky now and then. Is it entirely off-limits? In reality, the answer isn't a simple 'yes' or 'no'. It depends on your daily carbohydrate intake and your ability to track it accurately.

You could potentially include small amounts of jerky in your diet if you're meticulous about tracking your daily carb intake. There are plenty of carb-tracking apps and tools available that can assist you with this. You'll need to record everything you eat and ensure that your daily carbs stay within the keto limit, even with the addition of jerky.

Keep in mind, though, that this requires meticulous attention to detail and may leave less room for you to include other, potentially more nutrient-dense foods in your diet. Additionally, different types of jerky can have varying levels of carbs depending on their preparation method, so it's always important to check the nutritional information of the specific jerky you're consuming.

Delving into the Carbohydrate Content of Jerky

Now, let's take a closer look at the carbohydrate content of jerky. Before we dive into the numbers, we need to understand a crucial concept in the keto diet – net carbs. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the fiber content from the total carbohydrate content in a food item. They are the carbohydrates that your body can digest and convert into glucose, which can then be used to fuel the body.

So, why is this important? Well, when you're on a keto diet, your goal is to limit your intake of net carbs, not just total carbs. By limiting your net carb intake, you push your body to enter a state of ketosis, where it burns fat instead of glucose for energy. This can lead to improved energy levels and cognitive function, among other health benefits.

Now, onto jerky. As we've mentioned earlier, a 100-gram serving of jerky contains about 9.2 grams of net carbs. This can vary slightly depending on the precise brand and flavor, but this figure is a good general guideline. To put this into perspective, if you're on a strict keto diet and aiming for no more than 20 grams of net carbs per day, a 100-gram serving of jerky would account for nearly half of your daily limit.

Now, let's consider a more usual serving size for jerky, which is typically around 30 grams. Even then, you're consuming about 2.8 grams of net carbs. Again, while this might not sound like a lot on its own, remember that it adds up quickly, especially if you're snacking on jerky throughout the day or consuming other foods high in net carbs.

Nutritional Snapshot of Jerky

Jerky, particularly a 100g sample, boasts a diverse nutritional profile. Starting with its macronutrients, Jerky is notably high in protein, boasting 33.2g. This makes it a good choice for those looking to meet their daily protein requirements. It also contains a substantial amount of total fats (25.6g) which includes valuable fatty acids such as saturated (10.85g), monounsaturated (11.3g), and polyunsaturated fats (1.01g).

Furthermore, Jerky provides a moderate amount of net carbohydrates (9.2g), accommodating those following diets that require controlled carb intake. The presence of dietary fiber (1.8g) adds to its health benefits, aiding in digestive health.

Looking at micronutrients, Jerky is rich in Sodium (1785.0mg) and Potassium (597.0mg). These electrolytes are crucial for maintaining fluid balance and nerve function. It's also a good source of Iron (5.42mg), a mineral that plays a key role in red blood cell formation, and Zinc (8.11mg), essential for immune function.

In addition, Jerky provides a range of vitamins like Vitamin B-6 (0.18mg), B-12 (0.99ug), Vitamin E (0.49mg), and Vitamin K1 (2.3ug), all of which contribute to various bodily functions. For instance, B-vitamins are key in energy production, while Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, and Vitamin K1 is necessary for blood clotting.

Nutrient NameAmount and Unit per 100g
Net Carbs 9.2g
Carbohydrate, by difference 11.0g
Fiber, total dietary 1.8g
Total fats 25.6g
Protein 33.2g
Sodium, Na 1785.0mg
Potassium, K 597.0mg
Magnesium, Mg 51.0mg
Calcium, Ca 20.0mg
Vitamin B-6 0.18mg
Vitamin B-12 0.99ug
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.49mg
Vitamin K1 2.3ug
Copper, Cu 0.23mg
Iron, Fe 5.42mg
Phosphorus, P 407.0mg
Selenium, Se 10.7ug
Zinc, Zn 8.11mg
Cholesterol 48.0mg
Thiamin 0.15mg
Riboflavin 0.14mg
Niacin 1.73mg
Folate, total 134.0ug
Choline, total 109.1mg
Calories 410.0kcal
Water 23.36g
Fatty acids, total saturated 10.85g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 11.3g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 1.01g
This data was provided by the US Department of Agriculture's FoodData Central system.
'Jerky' was not found in FoodData Central, so nutritional data for 'Beef jerky' was used instead under Cast Iron Keto's editorial and research standards.

Health Implications of Jerky on a Keto Diet

The keto diet has gained a lot of traction in recent years due to the numerous health benefits attributed to it, from improved cognitive function to better energy levels. However, one of the challenges of a keto diet is maintaining ketosis - the metabolic state where the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. This is where jerky comes into the picture.

Jerky, with its high protein content and convenience as a grab-and-go snack, might seem like a great addition to a keto diet. However, as we've discussed earlier, the relatively high net carb content of jerky can make it tricky to incorporate into a strict keto diet without risking knocking your body out of ketosis.

A sudden spike in your carbohydrate intake, such as what might occur if you consume a large serving of jerky, can potentially disrupt ketosis. When this happens, your body shifts back to burning glucose for energy, which is the exact opposite of what a keto diet aims to achieve.

On the other hand, jerky has properties that contribute to overall health and wellness. It's high in protein, which is essential for muscle growth and recovery. It also contains iron, zinc, and B-vitamins, which can contribute to a well-rounded diet. However, these benefits need to be weighed against the potential challenges it could pose to maintaining ketosis if you're on a strict keto diet.

Avoiding Jerky in Your Keto Meal Plan

If you've been indulging in jerky and are now committed to a strict keto lifestyle, you may be wondering how to replace that tasty treat in your meal plan. Don't worry; we have you covered with some practical tips and methods.

Firstly, it's essential to be aware of the high net carb content of jerky and understand that it could potentially throw your body out of ketosis. So, what can you do to avoid jerky in your meal plan?

  1. Identify hidden sources: Jerky can often find its way into mixed snack packs or as a topping on salads and other dishes. Make sure to check the ingredients of any pre-packaged meals or snacks to ensure jerky hasn't snuck its way in.
  2. Find a low-carb, high-protein alternative: There are plenty of delicious, keto-friendly snacks out there that can satisfy your cravings. Consider options like nuts, cheese, or even a hard-boiled egg as high-protein, low-carb alternatives that can keep you satiated.
  3. Prepare and plan: One of the easiest ways to avoid eating jerky is simply not to have it on hand. When you're shopping, resist the urge to purchase it, and when you're meal planning, focus on incorporating a variety of other foods to keep your diet diverse and exciting.
  4. Overcoming cravings: Cravings for jerky can be a real challenge, especially if you're used to having it as a go-to snack. Whenever a craving hits, try drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, or eating a handful of keto-friendly nuts. Over time, your taste buds will adjust, and you may find that you no longer crave jerky as much as you once did.

Keto-Compatible Alternatives for Jerky

Knowing that jerky isn't the most keto-friendly option, you may be wondering what alternatives exist that can provide similar satisfaction but with a lower carbohydrate hit. Fortunately, there are several keto-compatible alternatives that can be effectively used in different keto recipes.

  1. Nuts: A handful of nuts can be a great snack on a keto diet. They are high in healthy fats and protein but low in carbs. For example, a 100-gram serving of almonds contains around 22 grams of protein and only about 10 grams of net carbs, making them a more keto-friendly option than jerky.
  2. Cheese: Cheese is another high-protein, low-carb snack that can help curb your hunger. A 100-gram serving of cheddar cheese contains 25 grams of protein and just 1.3 grams of carbs.
  3. Avocados: While not a direct alternative to jerky, avocados are a great source of healthy fats and can be used as a snack or salad topper to keep you feeling full. A medium avocado contains around 17 grams of carbs, but 13 of those are fiber, making the net carb count just 4 grams.
  4. Beef sticks: Beef sticks can be a great alternative to jerky. Look for brands that don't add sugar or any other high-carb ingredients. A 100-gram serving of plain beef sticks usually contains about 20 grams of protein and only 3 grams of net carbs, making them a more keto-friendly choice than jerky.
  5. Olives: Olives are high in fats and very low in carbs, making them a great snack or salad addition on a keto diet. A 100-gram serving of black olives contains approximately 1 gram of net carbs.

Concluding Thoughts on Jerky and Keto

Throughout our exploration of jerky and its relationship with the keto diet, certain key insights have emerged that are worth reiterating. First and foremost, while jerky may seem like a high-protein snack that would be compatible with a keto diet, the relatively high net carb content can pose a challenge for individuals striving to maintain a state of ketosis.

The nutritional profile of jerky, which includes significant protein, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins, certainly has its benefits. However, these need to be weighed against the high carb content, which can potentially disrupt ketosis and hinder the effectiveness of a strict keto diet.

Finding keto-friendly alternatives to jerky that are lower in carbohydrates is a practical strategy for those following a strict keto diet. Foods like nuts, cheese, avocados, beef sticks, and olives are not only delicious but also align with the nutritional demands of a keto lifestyle.

As we move forward, it's crucial to recognize the importance of individual dietary needs and preferences. An essential aspect of a successful diet plan is enjoyment and sustainability, after all.

Lastly, as a unique idea, consider using a food diary or a mobile app to track your food intake. This can help in identifying any hidden sources of carbs that you might be consuming unknowingly, such as certain brands of jerky, and can be a game-changer in maintaining a successful keto diet.

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Cast Iron Keto's Editorial and Research Standards

Certain rare or exotic food items may not have nutritional profiles in the FoodData Central database. If an exact match is not found in the FoodData Central database, then, the Cast Iron Keto team utilizes a three-prong approach to provide readers with the closest relevant nutritional data, where possible.

First, in the event that nutritional profiles for a rare or exotic food item is not available in the FoodData Central database, we investigate alternative names for that particular food item and use that data, when possible. Second, in cases where no alternate names exist, Cast Iron Keto will use nutritional data for a close relative or similar food item. Finally, if no close relatives or similar items exist, we refrain from publishing nutrient data tables.

When making dietary or health decisions based on FoodData Central's data, we suggest readers consult with a nutritionist or other health experts, particularly if the food in question has a significant role in your diet or if you are using the food item to treat any health disorder(s).

Furthermore, it is important to note that even if a close relative or similar item is used to approximate the nutritional data, different food items can have varying levels of nutrients due to factors such as soil quality, farming practices, and regional differences.


The information on this website is only intended to be general summary information for public use, designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. This information does not replace written law or regulations, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about a medical condition or are seeking to evaluate the health merits of certain food items for the treatment of any medical condition, you should seek the advice of a doctor or other qualified health professionals.

The views expressed at, or through, Cast Iron Keto are for informational purposes only. Cast Iron Keto cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. While we use reasonable efforts to include accurate and up-to-date information, we make no warranties as to the accuracy of the content and assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this website are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided "as is;" no representations are made that the content is error-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not all jerky is created equal. The carb content can vary greatly depending on the brand and the flavorings added. Some brands may add sugar or other high-carb ingredients, increasing the total carb content. Always check the nutritional label before consuming.