Did you know that each time you handle your food it loses a little more of its nutritional value? It’s true. Simple food handling, such as peeling an orange or slicing an apple, is a nutrient killer.
Additionally, time, light, air, and moisture can threaten the nutrient content of your food. Of course, cooking kills nutrients as well. The process of preserving food kills vital nutrients.
Depending on how you buy your food, how old it is, and how much you handle it, you may easily lose more than half of your food’s nutrient content before you consume it.
Dehydration is Still the Best Way to Preserve Your Food
That is why it’s so important to purchase your dehydrating food fresh and handle it only once before preserving it. When it comes to preserving food, dehydrating is still the way to go if your goal is to keep as much of the nutrients as possible. The following table compares a few key nutrients found in a pound of apricots and shows that dehydrating food is by far the best method for food preservation.
Nutritional Content of Different Types of Apricots
|Nutrients||1 LB Dehydrated Apricots||1 LB Frozen Apricots||1 LB Canned Apricots|
|Riboflavin||.36 mg||.18 mg||.15 mg|
|Thiamine||Trace||.09 mg||.12 mg|
|Niacin||16.2 mg||3.5 mg||2.5 mg|
|Potassium||5725 mg||1039 mg||1642 mg|
|Iron||24 mg||4.1 mg||2.3 mg|
|Calcium||390 mg||45 mg||77 mg|
|Protein||25.4 mg||3.2 mg||4.5 mg|
Food loses its nutritional value naturally. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Don’t let that stop you from dehydrating food, because dehydrated food is usually more nutrient-rich than fresh food. By dehydrating your food, you’re simply removing the moisture from it.
This process will concentrate all the food’s nutrients into a smaller space. That’s why 10 grams of dehydrated beef will have more nutrient content than 100 grams of fresh beef. Also, removing moisture from your food protects its nutrients from yeast and bacteria that rely on moisture to thrive.
5 Tips for Protecting Nutrients in Dehydrated Food
1. Pre-Treat Your Fruit
Before you dehydrate your fruit, consider pre-treating it.
Some people prefer using pre-treatments because they can help retain some of the fruit’s nutrients.
Yet, the same treatments can destroy others.
The key is to know what vitamins and nutrients are most important to you. If you’re interested, there are several ways to pre-treat your fruit.
Here are my two favorite pre-treatment ideas:
Fruit/citrus juice—Any type of citrus fruit, along with pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and grape juice can be used as a soak for your fruit to prevent browning without altering the flavor too much. This process will help preserve the vitamin C content in your fruit.
Though some people recommend dipping your fruit in citrus juice, I personally have seen the best results when I soak my fruit for 5 minutes.
Honey Dip—Honey has been used for a very long time as a preservative. It adds a nice sweetness to your fruit.
2. Blanch Your Vegetables
If you’re dehydrating vegetables, I suggest blanching them in hot water before you dry them. Complete the following steps to blanch your veggies before dehydrating them:
- In a large pot, heat your water to a rolling boil. Add a tablespoon of salt.
- Set up an ice bath. A tub or container full of ice water will suffice. You want to make sure that you have a lot of ice floating on top of the water. The container should be proportionate to the number of vegetables you’re using.
- Cook your vegetables for 3 minutes at a rolling boil. You can tell if your veggies are done by pinching them.
- Transfer the vegetables from the boiling water to the ice bath. Let them cool completely.
- Once cool, drain your container in a colander
- Let the veggies air-dry completely before dehydrating.
Hot water blanching helps preserve carotene and thiamine. Unfortunately, this process contributes to the loss of vitamin C. Again, you should know what’s important to you before you treat your veggies.
3. Use a Sulfite Treatment
Like the previous tips, this tip is not perfect. Using a sulfite treatment will help you minimize the loss of vitamin A and vitamin C. However, it will also accelerate the loss of riboflavin and thiamine.
If you have asthma, be careful. You might have an allergic reaction to the sulfite. Sulfite is any many of the foods and drugs we consume.
4. Use Your Dehydrator at the Right Temp
You need to keep your dehydrator in the proper temperature range to protect your food’s nutrients. Most people recommend temperatures around 130 degrees F for fruits and vegetable. Basically, higher temperatures during dehydration equal fewer nutrients in your dehydrated food. It’s better to go slow and long than high and fast when it comes to dehydrator temperature.
5. Condition Your Dehydrated Food
After you dehydrate your food, you’ll need to take additional steps to protect its long-term nutritional value. Conditioning your food is part of that process.
- Let your food cool down to room temperature
- Place your dehydrated food into nonporous containers. I like mason jars best.
- Wait 24 hours and check for condensation. If any moisture is detected, place food back into the dehydrator. If not, the food will become rancid and spoil.
Choose an Electric Dehydrator
Bringing home an electric dehydrator was one of the best additions to my kitchen in a long time. I couldn’t imagine going without my electric dehydrator again! They’re perfect for low heat, controlled air-drying.
Ovens are too hot and kill vital nutrients in your food. Drying food in the sun has the same effect. If nutrient loss is a concern of yours, then there’s no substitute for using an electric dehydrator.
Remember, you will lose some nutrients during the dehydrating process. If you use the tips I’ve given you here and invest in a food dehydrator (I got mine for around $50), you can save a lot of the nutrients in your food. Also, remember to limit the number of times you handle the food and be sure your food is new and fresh.
Proper storage is also important. Let the food cool completely before storage and use an airtight container for best results.
Implement these tips for optimal nutrient content in your dehydrated food.