I have heard about dehydrated foods. With the help of the dehydrator, one can dehydrate fruits, veggies, and meat and store them for a long period.
It does not go bad or lose nutrients and is a must-have for a rainy day or an outdoor excursion.
Before deciding on getting a dehydrator, I decided to find out if there were any drawbacks to dehydrating food.
Is the food quality impacted? Are they healthier than eating fresh? Let us find out.
Disadvantages of Dehydrating Food
Allow me to discuss all the disadvantages of dehydrating food before we include them in our diet.
Takes a Lot of Time
Dehydrating food takes a lot of time. Back in the 1900s, people used to keep food out in the sun for air drying.
They had more time, and the world wasn’t as busy and chaotic as today, where time is money.
Today, a dehydrator can perform the same function, but it takes longer than cooking food.
The dehydrator takes its own sweet time to remove all moisture from the food.
The process of preparation before dehydrating also takes a long time. When it comes to meat, not all bacteria get killed in the low temperatures of the dehydrator.
It is recommended to roast or steam them at 160F and then dehydrate them at 130-140° F.
Similarly, certain veggies need to be blanched. Fruits and vegetables need to be sliced finely and in the same proportion for even results.
The process of cleaning the racks and equipment before and after will also take time. You also need to sanitize the storage jars where the dehydrated food will be placed finally.
You need some free time to do all of the above. Here is a summary of the time taken for a few common foods. (source)
P.S: Don’t forget to read the manual of your dehydrator to find dehydrating times for different foods.
|Foods||Initial Preparation||Final Preparation||Dehydrating time|
|Apples||Wash and cut them into thin slices (3 to 6mm)||Dip in lemon water or steam blanch for five minutes||Dehydrated for 10-12 hours until all moisture is gone|
|Carrots||Wash, peel, and cut into thin slices (3-4mm)||Blanch them in water for five minutes.||Dehydrate for six to ten hours until they turn brittle|
|Bananas||Peel and cut ripe bananas into thin slices ( 3-4mm)||Dip in lemon water for a few minutes||Dehydrate for 6-8 hours until they turn leathery|
|Onions||Remove the outer shell and the top and bottom. Slice into rings (3-6mm)||Blanch in water for 3 minutes.||Dehydrate for 8-10 hours until they are brittle.|
|Peaches||Wash and cut in halves, removing the pit.||Dip in ascorbic acid or lemon water for a few minutes.||Dehydrate for three and a half to four hours until it is leathery.|
Increases the Calories
As the water gets drained off, the calorie count gets increases. This happens as the size is decreased, and we end up eating more.
For example, a cup of apple (fresh) slices has 57 calories, whereas the dried version of apple slices in a cup has 208 calories– which is more than double!
As the calorie content increases, dehydrated foods may also lead to weight gain if consumed regularly.
Remember, even if they are lighter in weight, it doesn’t mean they won’t increase your weight. Weight gain can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart, and hormonal issues.
While it is true that dehydrated foods retain the nutritional content of food, over time, as they are stored for a long time, they will slowly start losing out nutrients.
This is a part of the natural deterioration process, although the absence of water will prolong the shelf life.
Certain nutrients get destroyed when exposed to heat. One example is vitamin c which gets destroyed at a very low temperature of 120° F.
Some nutrients are removed while preparing the food for dehydration.
Blanching is a process of food preparation before dehydration. This removes vitamin c from the food while preserving vitamins A and B.
You need to make up for the lost nutrients by eating fresh foods that contain a good amount of nutrients.
Increases the Sugar and Salt Content
We often add sugar or salt to the food we are going to dehydrate for flavor. Commercially dehydrated foods have a lot of sugar or salt content.
A cup of fresh blueberries would have 15 grams of sugar and about 84 calories.
A cup of sweetened, dehydrated blueberries will have 27 gms of sugar and about 127 calories.
The same goes for dried meat. Dried salami or beef contains a high amount of sodium.
High intake of sodium can cause water retention, blood pressure issues, and, eventually, heart problems.
The best way to cut down would be to dehydrate the food at home. This way, you will stay in control of the sugar and salt content.
It is best to make unsweetened/unsalted versions at home as already the dehydration process would have increased the calories.
Sprinkle some salt on the top when you want to consume the meat. The maximum daily recommendation for sodium is 2,300mgs.
Our body is made up of 70% water, and all our body cells need water. Most of the water (about 30%) is taken up by the body through fresh fruits and food preparations.
Dehydrated foods do not contain any moisture, so it increases the risk of dehydration if you do not have fluids along with dehydrated foods.
Less water intake can cause headaches, joint issues, and blood pressure problems.
You have to make sure you have fluids from other sources of food and water while consuming dehydrated foods.
May Interfere with Medicines
As I mentioned earlier, dehydrated foods contain a concentrated amount of nutrients.
As the moisture is removed, the concentrated form may react with certain medications. For example- vitamin K in kale chips can interact with blood thinner medications.
It is best to talk to your doctor and nutritionist about your diet and food habits before consuming dehydrated foods.
Change in Appearance, Texture, and Taste
I get wooed and hungry looking at raw foods. They are usually plump and fresh and look very artistic.
Dehydrated foods will look and taste very different from their fresh counterparts.
As the water is being pulled out, along with the appearance, the texture will also change. It will turn leathery or hard. It can be difficult to chew.
Sometimes the appearance of foods puts one-off, and your family might not eat the dehydrated food.
It takes a learning curve to appreciate the taste, texture, and appearance of dehydrated food. You can also rehydrate them in soup, water, or milk before eating.
You can also add them to sauces, casseroles, and baking recipes to give them a softer and milder taste and texture.
Higher Energy Cost
The process of dehydration can take a long time. The time duration depends on the model and the food you wish to dehydrate.
However, compared to cooking appliances, a dehydrator needs to work for a longer duration, anywhere from 3-12 hours.
This increases the electric bill costs.
Things to Consider
- While dehydrated foods are convenient for instant energy, emergencies, and outdoor excursions, it can take a lot of time to prepare them.
- You need to know the correct way of preparation before dehydrating. Both the preparation steps and the dehydration together should kill all the germs and bacteria in the raw food.
- Try to make up for the lost nutrients by consuming fresh foods along with dehydrated foods.
- Choose unsweetened/unsalted dried foods. You can sprinkle flavors on top according to your preference.
- Drink a lot of water. Keep the body hydrated while eating dried food.
- Store the food well in air-tight jars and containers in a cool place.
Tips for Storing Dehydrated food
Let us now proceed with tips for properly storing dehydrated food to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.
- Wash your hands before and after handling the food.
- The food should be properly dehydrated to prevent the growth of bacteria. Refer to the dehydrator manual and always follow the instructions for the correct dehydration technique.
- Make sure the food does not get contaminated by ants and other insects while storing the dehydrated food.
- For long storage, use air-tight jars/cans/bottles. Do make sure to sanitize them. Contamination of bacteria and other germs can lead to food poisoning.
- The jars should also be devoid of moisture and air-dried. Any leftover moisture will spoil the dehydrated food.
- For short storage, use vacuum-sealing bags or any air-tight ziplock bags.
- Keep the dehydrated food container in a cool area. The cooler the area, the longer the shelf life of food. The ideal temperature is above 32F and below 70F.
- Opt for a well-ventilated area to prevent any moisture buildup on the can.
Alternate Methods of Food Preservation (Instead of Dehydration)
There are a few methods with the help of which you can preserve your foods for a long time without them turning bitter and inedible.
Allow me to share some here.
This is the quickest method of preservation for small quantities of food.
For vegetables, you need to wash and cut them into the desired size. Blanch them for 3-5 minutes to kill pathogens and inactivate enzymes. Drain and freeze them in freezer bags.
Frozen food may discolor over time due to freezer burn. You can find them mostly on meat as gray/brown spots.
This is because, as time goes by, food gets dehydrated due to moisture loss.
You can increase the shelf life of many foods by storing them at 4° C or below.
Certain foods like bananas go bad immediately when frozen. Refer to the USDA guidelines for knowing which food can be frozen and for how long.
Canning is another good way to preserve food. This is mostly done commercially by hot packing, adding acids, and processing in boiling water or a pressure cooker for a specific amount of time.
This ensures the enzymes are killed and denatured.
There is no water lost in canning, unlike the dehydration technique. The food will not be devoid of moisture, although it will be slightly sour due to the acid usage.
No additional acid is required in high-acid foods like strawberries.
Food preserved through canning goes bad after the can is opened unless refrigerated.
Also read: Can You Use an Instant Pot for Canning?
Another word for fermenting is pickling. In this technique, an edible antimicrobial liquid is used to store the food.
All vegetables contain good bacteria. Once you slice them up and put them in salted water, they release their juices, creating a brine solution.
As the vegetables are left in the bring environment, they break down sugars and produce lactic acid.
This is what gives a tangy taste to the food. This tangy taste keeps the harmful bacteria away from food.
It is the cheapest method of preserving food and doesn’t require any specific temperature. Fermenting is done at room temperature.
Dehydrating foods has a lot of benefits. It is a healthy snacking option, instant energy food, an emergency surplus, and great for outdoor camping and trekkings.
However, it also comes with a lot of drawbacks. It takes a lot of time in preparing and dehydrating foods.
It increases calorie intake, while some vitamins may be lost or destroyed.
As the water is removed, it can cause dehydration. The concentrated nutrients may react with specific medications. The food changes its appearance, texture, and taste.
It may take time to get used to the dehydrated food tastes and textures.
Dehydrating foods also means increased electric bills as the electric dehydrator needs to run for a long time. I have mentioned all the points in detail.
It is now up to you to decide whether to dehydrate your food. Choose wisely and live healthily. All the best!
Other articles you may also like: