written by Brittany Scanniello, RD
Our ancestors learned thousands of years ago about the preserving qualities and benefits of drying food. There are many reasons why you can and should enjoy dehydrated goodies! Not only do dehydrated foods tend to be more robust in flavor – they are natural; free of sugars, additives, and preservatives; and, better for our environment. These added health benefits of dehydrated foods make them a fabulous addition to your kitchen and lifestyle. We will go into key benefits below on why more and more people are turning to dehydrated and dried foods as a healthier alternative for more natural, vitamin-rich snack options.
Here at Supernola, we utilize dehydration technology to create a more nutrient-dense and flavorful product. There are different drying methods, some take much longer than others, but all have the same result. Essentially, when dehydrating foods, nearly 75% of water is removed. At Supernola, we use warm air to circulate which slowly releases water, leaving foods with their REAL flavor, maintaining their nutrient profile, and extending shelf-life. A WIN, WIN, WIN in our book!
Dried and dehydrated snacks will go a long way in maintaining a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying your favorite snacks. Dehydrated goodies have become a go-to staple for our active backpackers, hikers, campers, and bikers.
Keep reading to learn about 5 benefits for choosing dehydrated snacks:
- All Natural
Dehydrated foods are generally 100% natural, as you are only using foods in their raw form. Dehydration provides the ability to access natural foods year-round, regardless of what season it is. Who can beat that? As so many of the fruits and vegetables here in the US are seasonal, and if you are anything like us, you aim to shop locally grown produce as much as able, you may be even more limited with what is available and when. Choosing a dehydrated option allows you to consume your fruit and vegetable of choice all year long! And a bonus…. Without added preservatives that may have been used to keep the raw form fresher that much longer.
- Full of nutrients
Dehydrating retains the foods original nutritional value. In other words, the key nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and natural enzymes are much better preserved with dehydration methods than other forms of food preservation. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed dried fruits maintain the level of antioxidants as their fresh versions. (1) Bottom line, your banana chips will have the same about of carbohydrate, fiber, sugar, and potassium that your fresh banana slices provide. Dehydration allows us all to continue to reap the nutritional benefits of the fruits and vegetables we are trying so hard to maintain in our diet, no matter time of year!
This maintaining of nutrients is rather unique to the preservation method. Other forms of preserving, such as canning can minimize various nutrients due to the high heat needed for sterilization. Studies have even found that certain water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins are more sensitive and may decline when exposed to high heat. (2)
That being said, canned fruits and vegetables are still fruits and vegetables and better than not eating any plants at all. But, they have been shown to have degradation of nutrients with time and in the process of preserving. (3)
- No Added Sugar and Preservative Free
When you are looking for dehydrated foods to add to your pantry, look for dehydrated versions that contain only one ingredient, the food you are looking for. There is no need to add sugars, trans-fats, pesky chemicals, or preservatives. Do not be fooled. There are dried versions out there with some of these additives, keep walking. Look for companies that keep it real; look for wholesome ingredients. This allows you to enjoy the food just as you would in its original state.
Sticking to sugar… pun intended. When you dehydrate fruits specifically, the natural fruit sugars concentrate. As food dries, it loses more and more of its water content. This forces the food to become smaller in sizes and thus, more calories by weight. On this same note, it is important not to ‘over-nibble’ on your dehydrated snack of choice. Consuming large quantities may stress your waistline a bit more than you were hoping for.
- Less Risk of Bacterial Contamination
The science behind it is quite simple. By removing the moisture from the food, you are taking away the environment bacteria needs to grow and spread in. When you remove the food’s moisture, you inhibit the growth of bacteria, so food stays preserved and safe much longer. Dehydrated foods run an exceptionally low risk of bacterial and fungal growth. This really comes down to the fact that bacteria and fungi thrive in wet and moist environments. Point in case… the exact opposite of what dehydration means. By removing nearly 75% of total moisture, you are also ensuring a longer and safer shelf life for your stored snacks and goodies.
- Good for You and Our Environment
How many times have you bought produce at the store only to realize you cannot nearly eat it all before it goes bad or gets too ripe? I know it has happened to us more times than we would like to admit. Dehydrating foods allows you to have healthy food on hand for a long time without the worry of spoiling.
For your favorite snack companies that are moving towards dehydrating more and more of their snack options offered, they too are helping the environment. When you remove water, you make the food much lighter. This means, fewer resources are needed to ship, pack and store, ultimately, lessening the carbon footprint. As we say at Supernola, “a better world starts with better food”.
A culmination of factors makes dehydrated snacks a healthy and sustainable option that, if adopted by more, could not only have a positive impact on our health, by being natural, full of nutrients, less risk of contamination, but also helpful on the future of food sustainability.
For your next hike, try some of our favorite snacks that incorporate dehydrated goods:
- Supernola snackable clusters provide nutrient dense snacks that deliver long-lasting energy.
- Organic fruit leather when you do not want to carry the weight of the actual fruit.
- Kale chips for the chip “crunch” but getting your veggies in.
- Free-range, organic beef jerky.
- Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants - PubMed (nih.gov)