Did you know that you can lose more than half of your food’s nutritional content every time you handle it? This means that when you slice an apple, peel an orange, or cook…you kill nutrients! For those of us interested in food preservation, it begs the question: does dehydrating food take away nutrients?
Dehydrating removes nutrients from most food. Once dehydrated, your food will last longer, but it won’t have the same nutritional value as when it was fresh. Spices are notable exceptions: cinnamon, ginger, and garlic have the same benefits in their raw form as their dried and powdered forms. Therefore, dehydration does not cause any loss of nutrients.
Natural elements like air, light, moisture, and time are also nutrient killers, so almost everything is an enemy of food nutrients!
Dehydration is a popular method of preserving food, and yes, the process can take away nutrients. As the name suggests, dehydration removes moisture in food. Stick around as we dig into why dehydration zaps nutrients and how to minimize nutrient loss.
How Does Dehydration Cause Nutrient Loss?
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The dehydration process involves heating the food to remove its water content. Food loses vitamins (notably Vitamin A and C) during this process when exposed to heat and air.
You will also lose some enzymes and minerals because of heating. However, enzymes are also lost when you cook food, so dehydrating food that’s already cooked can have zero nutritional loss.
6 Ways to Minimize Nutrient Loss When Dehydrating Food
So, is there a way to minimize the loss of nutrients during the dehydration process?
You bet your bottom dollar and here are six hacks to lock those nutrients in:
- Pre-treat your food
- Blanch your vegetables
- Slice your food evenly
- Rotate your dehydrator trays
- Dehydrate food at the right temperature
- Store your dehydrated food properly
1. Pre-Treat Your Food
Vegetables with thick or tough outer skin can hinder the dehydration process. That’s why it’s better to slice them up. However, exposure to air causes some foods like apples, pears, apricots to discolor or become brown.
Pre-treating your food before dehydration can help prevent this. Some common ways to pre-treat your food include:
Fresh Fruit Juice or Citrus Dip
Any fruit juice high in vitamin C like orange juice, lemon, pineapple, grape, or cranberry juice is an excellent option for pre-treatment. Some people say it’s not as effective as ascorbic acid but using fresh fruit juice minimizes the loss of vitamin C during the dehydration process.
Here’s a step-by-step process of using fresh fruit juice or citrus dip:
- Take the fruit juice of your choice and pour it into a big bowl
- Put your sliced fruits in the bowl and soak for 3-5 minutes
- Drain all the juice out and place your soaked fruit slices on drying trays
Note that using fresh fruit or citrus juice might alter the taste and color of your dried fruit. Pre-treating also reduces thiamine in your dehydrated foods.
Honey is one of the oldest preservatives used on dried foods, plus it adds a natural sweetness to your fruits. Here’s how to honey dip your fruits before dehydration:
- Boil one and a half cups of water and dissolve a half cup of sugar
- Wait until the mixture is lukewarm, and add a half cup of honey to the mixture
- Soak your sliced fruits for 3-5 minutes
- Drain the mixture and put your fruits on drying trays
Note that honey dipping can add more calories to your fruits because of the sugar.
2. Blanch Your Vegetables
Blanching is the process of scalding your fruits and vegetables with boiling water and then running them through cold water or an ice bath to prevent the cooking process. Blanching stops the enzyme actions, which helps preserve thiamine and carotene in food.
Do not boil your vegetables for longer than 3 minutes, and ensure that they air dry entirely before dehydrating.
Note that the blanching process also contributes to the loss of vitamin C. However, steam blanching can help reduce the loss of more nutrients in your dehydrated food than in the boiling method.
3. Slice Your Food Evenly
You should slice your food uniformly to avoid over-heating or over-drying some pieces.
Over-heating your food can cause more nutrient loss, so I recommend investing in a high-quality slicer to ensure equal food slices.
4. Rotate Your Dehydrator Trays
Rotating your trays during the dehydration process is a good idea to ensure that all food portions are dried equally.
You don’t want some parts over-dried and others still soggy after the process is done. You need to be time-sensitive to prevent this from happening. Investing in a dehydrator with temperature control can also be helpful.
5. Dehydrate Food at the Right Temperature
Think about it: overheating and over-drying happen because you cannot control the weather or temperature. My recommended solution to this problem is to purchase an electric food dehydrator.
With most electric food dehydrators, you have complete control of the temperature, which will help preserve a lot of nutrients in your food.
Below is a list of the standard temperature requirements for dehydrating various foods:
- Meat – 160 degrees F
- Fruit and vegetables – 135 degrees F
- Nuts and seeds – 105 degrees F
- Herbs – 95 degrees F
- Pasta – 135 degrees F
Pro Tip: Except for meat and other high-protein items such as eggs, you can reduce nutrient loss by dehydrating at a lower temperature. Advocates of raw food diets consider anything dehydrated at a temperature of 115 degrees F or lower to be “raw.” The great thing about this is that the lower temperature reduces the amount of nutrient loss. It does take longer for food to dehydrate at a lower temperature, but it’s worth it from a nutritional standpoint.
6. Store Your Dehydrated Food Properly
Home dehydrated food can last up to a year or even longer when stored appropriately. One of the processes that make this possible after dehydration is conditioning your dehydrated foods. Conditioning your dry food helps equalize moisture and prevent mold from growing on your food.
There are three main processes to conditioning your dehydrated foods:
- The first step is to leave your food to cool down at room temperature.
- Afterward, store your food in airtight containers like mason jars and leave it for 24 hours.
- Check if there is any moisture due to condensation. If you detect any excess moisture, return the food to the dehydrator.
Other factors to consider when storing your dehydrated foods are:
- Temperature – storing your dehydrated food at a lower temperature will extend the shelf life.
- Light – Avoid storing your food under direct sunlight. Light shortens the shelf life of your food because it breaks down the food and causes the loss of nutrients and flavors.
- Oxygen – Similar to light, oxidation will shorten the shelf life of your food. That’s why you should always store dehydrated food in the dark. It also helps to vacuum seal your dehydrated food.
Making Up for Nutrient Loss in Dehydrated Foods
Sprout and microgreen seeds and other indoor gardening supplies are a big part of my prepper pantry. In addition to adding fresh food to my family’s diet, they also make up for nutrient losses through dehydrating and other types of food preservation.
Check out my article, Why Every Prepper Should Add Sprouts and Microgreens to Their Prepper Pantry for more information.
- Nesco Dehydrator Review
- 11 Reasons to Own a Food Dehydrator
- How to Dehydrate Eggs
- How to Dehydrate Canned Pineapple
- How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?
Here are some of my favorite dehydrating tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-dehydrated food! Here are some tools that I use that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I recommend and believe in 100%!
The Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator was my first dehydrator, and still one of my favorites. I actually have two of them! If I was only going to buy one dehydrator and was on a strict budget, this would be it. I love it because it’s very reasonably priced, and is expandable up to 12 trays. I recommend starting with the basic system that comes with 5 trays. Then expand by buying additional trays, fruit leather sheets, and mesh screens.
The Cosori Premium Dehydrator is my most recent dehydrator purchase. In many respects, it’s superior to the Nesco since it is constructed with stainless steel, which is always a winner. I love the ease of use, and how precise it is when it comes to setting the temperature. It’s also versatile in that you can remove some of the racks. This makes it possible to use it for more than just dehydrating. As an example, you can use the Cosori dehydrator to make yogurt, something you definitely can’t do with any of the stackable dehydrators.
Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster Pro Food Dehydrator – I’ve had my eye on this dehydrator for a LONG time. I don’t have space for another dehydrator, so I’m just waiting for one of my dehydrators to die so I can buy this one! What I really love about this dehydrator is that it expands to up to 30 (yes, 30!) trays. At 1,000 watts, it’s more powerful than the two dehydrators listed above. If you only have the means to buy one dehydrator, and have limited space to dehydrate, I recommend this one since you can dehydrate a huge amount of food at a time.
The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing Machine is a great way to preserve the food you’ve dehydrated. The machine I use is no longer available. I chose this one because it’s a great price and includes a port that makes it possible to use the accessory kit linked to below. Since I store all my dehydrated food in mason jars, the jar sealer attachments are a must. But with this device, you can also use food storage bags if you’re short on mason jars, or prefer to seal you dehydrated food in bags.
The FoodSaver Handheld Cordless Food Vacuum Sealer is a great option for those with limited space. I keep mine charged up in my kitchen, so I can easily reseal jars every time I use some of my dehydrated food. While I still love my larger FoodSaver, from a convenience perspective, this one can’t be beat.
The FoodSaver Accessory Kit is a must if, like me, you store dehydrated food in mason jars. You can use this kit with either of the vacuum sealers linked to above.