When it comes to snacking there is a lot to choose from and those supermarket aisles are filled with sugary and salty snacks that do not do you any flavours. Naturally, we all tend to go for taste first and then think about the consequences later. But our bodies deserve more. You deserve better. Believe it or not, there is one snack that checks all the boxes and is not only very tasty but is also highly nutritious. This snack is biltong and it's more than just a treat, it's a nutrient-dense powerhouse. Here, we tell you about the multitude of health benefits of biltong.
Biltong? What? Who?
For the uninitiated, biltong is a cured meat snack made from premium, grass-fed beef. The biltong meat is cut into strips before being marinated in a blend of healthy spices and cider vinegar and then hung dry for 3-4 days in a temperature-controlled setting. This process produces a highly nourishing snack that keeps those hunger pangs away. Good biltong is made according to a 400-year-old recipe that calls for a base spice mix of salt, black pepper, coriander and apple cider vinegar to accompany your choice of red meat. These ingredients combine to give you both taste and alimentary benefits. Other natural spices can also be added to create a wide variety flavours - from fresh garlic, to peri peri peppers, to BBQ glazes or even chilli chutney (a British favourite). What is important to note is that you do not need a lot of extra ingredients to produce high-quality biltong. As a general rule, ingredients should complement both nutritional value and taste and not just prolong a product's shelf life. Good biltong can last up to 6 months in a sealed, air-tight packet/container. If the biltong you buy has a shelf life of 12-18 months then you should know that extra preservatives have been used to keep the product "safe" to eat over longer periods.
Biltong is a powerhouse of nutrition
So what are the health benefits of biltong? This is a much-discussed topic but it really only boils down to a few key aspects.
1. High in Protein
Biltong made from good quality meat contains high levels of muscle-repairing protein. What's more striking is that biltong made from venison can contain more protein per 100g than beef. Regardless of what meat your biltong is made from, the protein it contains is a fundamental building block for your body and should be consumed daily (in any form - pulses, meat, fish, eggs, etc).
High protein foods not only aid in quicker muscle recovery but also tend to keep you fuller for longer. This means you end up snacking less. We all need protein in order to maintain optimal health levels but if you are someone who is on a keto diet or are working on your strength training, then biltong is the next best thing for you.
2. Low in Carbs
There's often a misguided aversion to carbohydrates these days. But what is important is that your body requires a balanced diet. Even so, biltong is naturally low in carbs simply due to the fact that the predominant ingredient is high quality meat.
3. Low in Fat
While you can get both the lean and fatty variety of biltong, it all depends on the preparation the crafter uses when making their version. Generally, premium silverside, grass-fed beef is trimmed of nearly all its fat before being marinaded and sent to dry. For this reason, biltong is generally quite lean. If you follow a ketogenic diet you may prefer the "fattier" versions of biltong as you will need good fats to complement your protein intake. If you're a venison fan then you'll be happy to note that venison biltong contains much less saturated fat than other red meat.
4. Vitamins & Minerals
Dried beef is an especially good source of essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and B-Vitamins. Additionally, it is particularly rich in iron. Biltong made from venison is similar in this regard and is a great alternative to beef biltong.
5. Amino Acids
The process of building and repairing muscles requires amino acids. In particular, the amino acid known as "taurine" is incredibly important for cardiovascular health as well as for proper nervous system functioning. "Carnitine" is another amino acid that helps the body process fats as energy and also encourages the body to expend more energy. All this to say that, if you are strength conditioning then you will see greater benefits if you consume good quality biltong.
6. Low in sugar
Those protein/peanut/chocolate-coated bars are definitely tasty but their refined sugar content is high enough to cause governments around the world to think about creating a sugar tax on junk food. Their packaging is designed to sway you into thinking that they are natural and good for you. This, sadly, is not true in most cases. Even when it comes to meat snacks there's a spectrum. You'll find that jerky is often cooked with added sugar to enhance the flavour. This can mask the taste low-quality meat and prolong its shelflife. Good biltong should not have any added sugar unless it comes from some of the spice mix. Even so, only 3.5kg of ingredients are used for 100kg of raw meat, meaning that the concentrations of sugar should be very low indeed.
Take it Anywhere
Biltong was first created almost half a century ago to help keep settlers sustained over long periods of travel. As such, it was naturally designed to be a highly portable snack that you could tuck into whenever you felt the need for it. This portability also translates very nicely into versatility. You can have it in the office or soon after a workout to complement your shake. You can even add biltong to your salads, pizza, omelettes or savoury breakfast routine. If you’re hosting, pair it with wine, bread and cheese for a super charcuterie platter.
When it comes to snacking there's a lot available to you as a consumer but you owe it to yourself to try something that both tastes amazing and is nourishing. Give biltong a go!