How to make sense of all the different ways you can eat produce
Fruits and veggies are considered an essential part of a balanced diet, but many people often have questions about whether both dehydrated and freeze-dried produce contain the same nutritional value as when they’re fresh. Learning more about the process of dehydrating and freeze drying can help to clear some confusion.
There are three common methods for dehydrating produce: sunlight, oven-drying, and hot air (like a convection oven). Regardless of the method, higher temperatures can reduce the amount of vitamins in the produce and also affect their appearance like making them darker in color and smaller.
It’s also important to note that many store-bought brands will pretreat the fruits and veggies with preservatives to keep the colors vibrant and to extend their shelf-life. Depending on the process that’s used, this may add extra sugars to the dehydrated produce as well. In that sense, it’s better to dehydrate the produce yourself (and eat it sooner rather than later) if you can, or make sure that the product you’re buying hasn’t added extra sugars or preservatives that may affect your body. About 1 out of 100 people are sensitive to preservatives like sulfites. It’s closer to 1 in 10 if you have asthma. If you’re interested in learning more about how fruits and veggies are dehydrated, check out this article by the University of Pennsylvania.
Freeze drying works by flash freezing the produce and then reducing the air pressure around it to evaporate the moisture. This is why freeze-dried produce is crunchier than dehydrated fruits and veggies. When the water evaporates, it leaves small pockets of air behind. If you place the freeze-dried fruit or vegetable in water, it will also (kind of) return back to its original form, including its initial levels of vitamins. You should still check the label of the freeze-dried produce that you are thinking of purchasing because some companies still use preservatives, sugars, and oils.
Are dehydrated and freeze-dried produce as healthy as fresh produce?
You can already start to answer this question based on the process that I described. There are obviously some nutrition losses that occur when produce is dehydrated or freeze-dried. This is especially true for antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are water soluble nutrients. Neither drying processes affect the mineral or fiber contents of the produce.
So, while it’s true that dried produce is not quite as nutritious as when it’s fresh, it’s also important to remember that produce will also naturally lose nutrients over time as it ages. If you’re the type of person who tends to forget about their fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge or on the counter, dried produce might turn out to have the same nutritional benefits or better.
People with asthma or sulfite sensitivities may want to avoid dried produce altogether since sulfites can occur in natural drying processes as well. At least check with a health professional who can provide individual advice.
Also, because dried produce can have higher concentrations of sugars, people with diabetes should eat less of it than they would if they were eating it fresh. For example, most nutritional guides recommend that you have multiple servings of fruit per day. If you’re eating dried fruits, especially dehydrated fruit, it’s better to limit that to one serving. The American Diabetes Association defines a serving of fruit as 15 grams. That’s about ¼ cup of dried fruit at most, while the limit for fresh fruit is closer to ½ cup. Again, if you have any questions, you should consult with a health professional who can provide specific advice for your unique needs.
Are Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Fruits and Veggies Healthy? was originally published in HEAL • THY • HABITS on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.