If you love spicy snacks on the run, nothing beats the goodness of shiitake or lean meat slivers that arrive dried and non-chewy in a munchie bag. Jerky or dehydrated foods find their origin in a form of meat preservation by the Quecha Indians of the Inca empire that flourished in South America in 1550. But is there any nutritional benefit to consuming jerky foods that stand dehydrated?
Traditionally, beef and red meat were the sole contenders for the jerky brigade. Then hopped on duck, kangaroo, elk, fancy fungi, trout and more, as convenience foods slowly became a permanent fixture in our urban lifestyles. Says Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist Neha Sahaya, “Drying or dehydrating is one of the oldest ways to preserve foods. It makes them last longer and keeps them safe to eat. Yet you must consume in moderation, as nutrition-wise, the drying process can destroy vitamins A and C. This foodstuff also comes laced with high levels of sodium, just like processed meats. It is high in calories as the food shrinks and nutrients become more concentrated. Most of your diet should come from fresh, real and whole, unprocessed foods.”
Jerky foods are highly processed, having gone through many levels of factory alterations with the addition of artificial preservatives as well. “These meats have been stripped of their fat content, and nutrient value, and made tasty artificially. This makes them hard to digest, compromising on gut health and overall immunity,” explains culinary nutrition coach Eshanka Wahi, founder of Eat Clean with Eshanka, who shuttles between Delhi and Dubai. “These must not substitute fresh produce, hormone-free meats that form the clean protein in your diet,” she advices.
Though everyone loves a good, junk treat once in a while, keep in mind that the chomping of jerky is recommended once in a few weeks. To fob off chances of over-indulging while in the midst of a marathon Netflix session, combine it with your intake of healthy pop-ins. Shares Wahi, “Avoid clubbing jerky with trans fats, saturated fats, simple carbs, or sugars as this will pave the way for risk of cholesterol, heart, and overall health-related issues. Most importantly, on the day of eating jerky foods, make sure you stay well-hydrated.”
While it is general practice to read the label before making your purchase, sometimes there are ingredients that we simply do not understand. “Nutrition information and ingredients are the best indicators, but if there are more than two ingredients you do not understand, and they sound like tongue-twisters,
it is best to pass up the jerky pick,” she says.
✥ Eat in moderation
✥ Avoid substituting a meal with jerky foods
✥ Jerky means high on protein, sodium, preservatives
✥ Store in a dark, cool, dry place to retain flour. Refrigerate once opened.