Dehydration is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. While our ancestors relied on the sun to dry food, today we have commercial equipment and home appliances that can remove bacteria-forming moisture. This process preserves food for much longer than its ordinary shelf life.
Dehydrated foods can be a healthier alternative to many snacks, and you can add them to salads, oatmeal, baked goods, and smoothies. Because they rehydrate in liquid, they’re also easy to use in recipes.
Dehydrated foods keep their nutritional value. As a lightweight, nutrient-dense option, dehydrated foods are a go-to for hikers and travelers looking to save space.
Almost anything can be dehydrated. Some common food items made with dehydration include:
Fruit leather made from apples, berries, dates, and other fruits
Soup mixes made of dehydrated o nions, carrots, mushrooms, and other vegetables
H erbs dehydrated for a longer shelf life
Homemade potato, kale, banana, beet s, and apple chips
Powdered lemon, lime, or orange peel used in teas, alcoholic beverages, and other recipes
You can dehydrate your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even meat in an oven or specialty food dehydrator or fruit dehydrator. Many dehydrated foods are available in stores as well, though watch out for added ingredients like sodium, sugar, or oils.
The dehydrating process retains a food’s original nutritional value. For example, apple chips will have the same calorie, protein, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and sugar content as the fresh fruit.
However, because dried food loses its water content, it’s usually smaller in size and has more calories by weight. Keep your portions of dehydrated foods smaller than what's recommended for the unprocessed food to avoid overeating.
Dehydrated food also retains:
Essential fatty a cids
Dehydrated foods also maintain their nutrients for much longer than their fresh counterparts, even the dried meat processed by meat dryer. Research shows that fresh produce loses its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content within a few days of refrigeration — with reductions as high as 50% for some nutrients.
For example, kale chips are packed with vitamin K, which promotes heart health but counteracts medications like blood thinners. Talk to your doctor about what nutrients you should manage in your diet before powering up your food dehydrator.