The idea behind food dehydration is simple, remove moisture to make food last longer.
However, you need to understand why removing moisture prolongs the shelf life of your food. It’s a phenomenon, and you need to understand why food spoils.
If you’ve ever forgotten about food in your fridge, then you’ve seen the effects of one of these factors known as microorganisms.
Yeast, bacteria, and mold last to feed on your leftovers, and this process eventually makes your food look and smell terrible.
Another cause of food going off is natural enzymes. They cause the ripening in fruits and vegetables and turn bananas from a firm, yellow fruit to a squishy one.
Therefore removing the moisture content in food eliminates both of these processes allowing it to last all year round.
So does dehydrated food retain nutrients?
If this question has been on your mind, then you’re not alone. The truth is the effects of drying your food are positive and negative, and while dehydrated foods have a longer shelf life, the truth is they do lose many of their nutrients in the training process.
So the good news is that dried food will not spoil; however, don’t expect to get the same nutritional value out of your fruits and vegetables as you would have had you eaten them fresh.
What Is The Calorie Count Of Dehydrated Food?
Dehydrating food preserves some nutrients and protects it by removing the moisture that yeast, mold, and bacteria need to live.
Although the drying process will destroy some nutrients such as vitamin C and remove water concentrates along with other nutrients, it also jams more calories, dietary fiber, and air resistant vitamins and minerals into a smaller space.
Lots of fruits contain an enzyme that darkens the flesh as soon as it is exposed to air.
However, to prevent this from happening inside the fruit, they are treated with sulfur compounds known as sulfites.
In other words, it is sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfate, and sodium metabisulfite, and this chemical can cause potential allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
A good example of fresh food versus dried food is the plum versus the prune.
A medium-sized fresh plum weighs approximately 66 g without the pip and contains 6 mg of vitamin C, 7 to 8% of the recommended dietary allowance for healthy adults.
However, an equivalent amount of uncooked, dried prunes has 1.3 mg of vitamin C.
However, before you jump to the conclusion that fresh is always better than dried, remember the dried fruit has less water than fresh fruit.
Therefore in weight, it has more solid fruit content. As a result, dehydrated food has surprisingly more nutritional bounce to the ounce than fresh food.
Once again, we use the plum and prune comparison. A medium-sized plum for the flesh them wakings weighing slightly more than 66 mg contains 35 calories, 1 mg of iron, and 670 IU of vitamin A.
In the same breath, 2 ounces of dehydrated plums have about 193 calories, 2 mg of iron, and 952 IU of vitamin A.
In other words, if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to acknowledge the fact that although dried fruits are low in fats and rich in nutrients, it is also high in calories.
Does Dehydrated Food Retain Nutrients?
Although lots of people are health conscious these days, most prefer eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of dehydrated food.
However, the question is, does dehydrated food lose its nutritional value?
The truth is that fresh foods do have more nutritional value than dry food. When you dehydrate food in a dryer, or through some other conventional way, some of the valuable nutrients are lost.
The dehydrated foods have similar health benefits to fresh foods. However, each kind will defer marginally when it comes to vitamin and mineral content.
Fresh and dried fruits offer you lots of fiber and antioxidants, which are great for your health. On the other hand, though, dehydrated food sees a small portion of vitamins lost during the drying process.
Whether or not food possesses the same nutrient value in its raw or dry form will depend largely on the type of food as well as spices and herbs are using.
Cinnamon, for example, is used in many dishes for adding flavor but is available in dry and powdered forms.
Likewise, irrespective of whether ginger and garlic are used in the dried form or fresh form, they deliver flavor and also offer you inflammatory benefits.
Therefore it can be concluded that with certain foods, the nutritional value remains the same irrespective of whether it is fresh, dried, or powdered.
However, lots of people would like to know how nutritional value is reduced in dehydrated food. So let’s take a look at one food source.
When you take an ounce of fresh basil, it gives you 30% of the vitamin A, 8% of vitamin C and 145% of vitamin K.
This herb also contains omega-3 fatty acids in 88 mg along with an oxygen radical absorbance capacity value of 1200.
However, when it is dried, it will offer you only 4% of vitamin A, 2% of vitamin C, and the omega-3 fatty acid content is 33 milligrams.
So from this above example, you see that lots of nutrition are lost during the dehydrating process.
There are lots of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients contained in all food sources. However, some of the most common nutrients that are lost in dehydration include minerals.
These minerals are found in higher quantities in fresh foods as compared to dry food.
Also, vitamins such as vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate decrease during the dehydrating process.
Some people also choose to add sulfur to their dry fruit to ensure that it doesn’t turn brown. The sulfur also allows you to preserve more of the vitamin A and C content in your food.
However, during the drying process, the sulfur also reduces the thiamine content as well. When you dry food, enzymes get lost.
Food that is dried in the lower temperatures kills fewer enzymes as compared to food being dehydrated at higher temperatures.
However, the good news is that there are things you can do to reduce the number of nutrients that are lost in the drying process:
- Firstly, you should dry food at the right temperature. With a food dehydrator, you are in full control over the temperature settings to ensure that you reduce the loss of nutrients in food.
- Pre-treating your food also preserves nutrients. You can try dipping your fruit and vegetables in an acid or lemon juice, and it will protect your food from turning brown but may also reduce the vitamin C and E content.
- Blanching food also preserves the carotene. However, you might have to sacrifice some vitamin C with this method. Steam blanching is extremely beneficial, as fewer nutrients are lost during this method.
- Avoiding direct sunlight will also ensure that you do reduce vitamin and nutrient loss. The more you store your food in a dark place, the more you save the contents of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- In order to prevent overheating or overdrying, fruit should be sliced in equal sizes. Over drying can cause more nutrients to be lost. However, with a good slicer to cut your fruit and vegetables uniformly, you will eliminate this issue.
- Rotating the trays as well between drying would ensure that food is dried properly and evenly.
Some Examples Of Dried Food
If you are using a food dehydrator for the first time and you’re not sure exactly where to start or what foods to start with, here’s a list to help you on your way.
Use meat to create your very own beef jerky. The process is as simple as boiling your beef, adding spices or sauces of your choice, and then baking it in your food dehydrator at a low temperature.
If you love those tasty banana chips that you buy at stores, and now you can make your very own. Slice two bananas, coat them in lemon juice and bake for three hours at the lowest temperature.
Everyone loves crisps, but some crisps are better than others. Vegetable crisps will stop you from throwing your veggies in the bin but are also low in fat and not fried.
Use vegetables such as turnips, potatoes, mushrooms, and kale to create your own custom made crisps.
Apple is versatile, and dehydrated apples make delicious winter treats.
You can choose to have them sweet by adding honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg or give them a spicy kick by adding some salt and chili powder.
Is Nutritional Content Lost During The Drying Process?
Yes, Unfortunately dehydrating your food will reduce the vitamin, mineral and overall nutritional value.
What Can You Do To Prevent Nutrient Loss During The Dehydrating Process?
There are a few tips to reduce nutrient loss when drying your food and dipping them in lemon juice, steam blanching, avoiding direct sunlight, rotating your trays and of course using the appropriate temperature during the drying process are all important.
What Foods Can I Dry In A Food Dehydrator?
You can dry absolutely anything you like. However, some of the most popular foods to dry include meat, fruits, and vegetables.