Among the backpacking crowd, dried fruits and dehydrated vegetables have long been staple ingredients in many a backcountry feast. Food preservation and light weight are important on long hikes, but if that isn’t your idea of a good time, dried foods could be associated with making do rather than making dinner. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth.
Even if you never leave the comforts of town, dried vegetables and fruit are in many of the foods you eat, and they can be extremely good for you. With nearly the same nutritional value as fresh food, a longer shelf life, and a lower price tag, dried fruits and veggies could be just the ticket to helping increase the nutritional content of a host of dishes.
Are Dehydrated Vegetables Still Healthy?
It may surprise some people to learn that dried vegetables are nearly as healthy as their fresh counterparts. Though the water content of fruit or vegetables is removed in the drying process, properly dried food maintains nearly all of its vitamins and minerals. Aside from some volatile nutrients, properly dehydrated vegetables and fruits can retain their nutritional content, cost less to ship and are shelf-stable almost indefinitely.
Temperature matters in the dehydration process and foods dried at lower temperatures tend to retain more of their nutritional content. Some benefits remain no matter the temperature, such as the dietary fiber content of dried food. As anyone who has mindlessly munched their way through an entire bag of dried apricots can attest, dried fruit still packs the full dietary fiber punch of fresh fruit.
The only exception to the general rule of dehydrated food still being healthy is related to some volatile nutrients such as some B-vitamins, vitamin C, and beta carotene. These important nutrients do not survive the drying process well, making this one key nutritional difference between dried and fresh produce. Thankfully, vitamin C in particular can be added back into foods through the addition of citric acid.
Nearly any food can be dehydrated, but most consumers asked to name a dehydrated food probably think first of whole, dried fruit such as apricots or sliced bananas or apples. Veggies are also easily dried, and some of the most popular include extremely healthy options such as:
Kept in a cool, dark place, dried vegetables can be stored for extremely long periods. Using dried fruits or veggies in a range of dishes takes only a few minutes to properly rehydrate them in boiling water. Adding dried or powdered vegetables to soups or stews is even easier, as the cooking process will take care of the rehydration for you.
Beyond merely keeping pace with the nutrition of their fresh counterparts, some dehydrated foods have been linked to possibly lowering your chances of getting certain kinds of cancer. Research is very much still ongoing in this regard, but initial reports suggest that certain compounds activated during the drying process in some foods could provide extra protection against stomach, prostate, bladder, and some other types of cancer.