Slim Jim is one of the most distinctive beef jerky brands in the US. The bright yellow packaging can be found in convenience and grocery stores across the country, and the brand serves as a convenient way to get protein while on the road.
But what’s actually in Slim Jim other than animal protein? Are the other ingredients unhealthy? Is the sodium content a concern? And what do medical professionals have to say about Slim Jims?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in Slim Jim based on medical studies to give our take on whether or not the popular snacks are bad for you.
We’ll feature videos from medical professionals on the topic, and share our top jerky brand pick.
Slim Jim Original contains a large number of ingredients so we’ll break our analysis into two sections. The first set of ingredients are shown above.
Beef, pork and chicken are unsurprisingly the first-listed ingredients, and there is no reference as to whether these ingredients are sourced from pastured or conventionally-raised animals.
A medical review published in the Foods journal suggests that animal products sourced from pastured animals are more nutritious than those from conventional animals.
Corn syrup is a cheap, refined sweetener. A 2019 medical review suggests that added sugars in excess are associated with increased risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease, and many Americans already consume too many added sugars from their diet.
The additional ingredients in Slim Jims are shown below:
Natural flavors is a healthier option than artificial flavors, but a medical review published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal suggests that some flavoring additives and their metabolites may be suboptimal for human health.
Dextrose is another sweetener.
Citric acid is a flavor enhancer that’s clinically shown to cause whole-body inflammation in some individuals.
Sodium nitrite is a preservative, and food additive nitrites were shown to be associated with increased risk of some types of cancer in a 2022 medical review.
Based on their ingredients, we consider Slim Jims to be unhealthy and we do not recommend this product. It’s challenging to say whether a single food product is “bad for you” holistically because consuming anything in moderation has a likely negligible effect, but avoiding refined sugars, preservatives and nitrites seems like a logical nutrition choice.
But what do medical professionals have to say about whether or not Slim Jims are bad for you? We’ll feature some professional opinions in the next section.
Medical Professionals on Slim Jims
A Doctor of Natural Medicine named “Dr. Livingood” discussed the nutrition of Slim Jims in a YouTube video:
A fitness trainer named Korin Sutton shared his thoughts on the least healthy travel snacks:
Here are Some of the Worst Snacks You Can Buy While Traveling♬ original sound - Korin Sutton
Is the Sodium a Problem?
In the previous ingredient analysis section we overviewed the ingredients in Slim Jim, and in this section we’ll discuss the nutrients, specifically sodium.
One serving of Slim Jim Short Sticks Original, which equals four sticks, only contains 130 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
We can’t determine how much sodium is in the Giant Sticks, because the Ingredients & Nutrition button is broken on the brand’s website. This is a consumer safety issue and we hope that the brand rectifies it, because some consumers are on low-sodium diets.
High sodium intake is associated with increased risk of mortality according to a 2016 medical review, although research on this topic is mixed.
A more recent medical review found that sodium intake correlates positively with longevity, which is an opposite conclusion of the previously-cited review.
We do not consider the sodium content in one serving of Slim Jim Short Sticks Original to be high, and this is actually a lower sodium content than many processed food products.
In our opinion, the health effects of Slim Jims relate more to the ingredients than the sodium content.
But how are Slim Jims actually made? We’ll feature an animated video answering that question in the next section.
How Are Slim Jims Made?
A WIRED video with over 500,000 views shows how Slim Jims are made in a captivating animated video that’s under two minutes long:
Our Healthy Packaged Protein Picks
For consumers who want convenient, no-cooking protein options we believe there are some good options on the market.
Grass-fed beef jerky is a good choice, because meat from grass-fed animals is shown in medical research to be nutritionally superior to meat from conventionally-raised animals.
The New Primal Grass-Fed Beef Jerky Sticks is our top pick for a healthier meat product. They're convenient (no cooking required), sourced from exclusively grass-fed animals, free of nitrates and nitrites and also free of added sugar.
Interested consumers can check out The New Primal beef jerky sticks at this link to the brand's official Amazon listing.
Sardines are a cheap and convenient canned protein option with significant health benefits. As we documented in our review on the benefits of fish oil supplements, fish oil can support healthy cholesterol levels and provides potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Wild Planet Sardines is our top pick because they're sustainably sourced, packed in water and free of questionable additive ingredients. Sardines are also high in calcium, providing 15% DV in only 140 calories.
Interested consumers can check out Wild Plant Sardines at this link to the brand's official Amazon listing.