“I read that dehydrators are the in thing this year. Clearly dried fruits are going to contain more sugars per handful than the original fruit but might there be nutritional benefits from drying foods?”
Food dehydrators can be a great way to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables and to create portable, nutritious snacks. Although dried fruits are ever-popular, you can also dry vegetables and herbs.
So, when fresh garden tomatoes are overflowing your counter-tops in September, you can load them into your dehydrator and dry them to use through the winter. Green beans or kale leaves can be lightly salted and turned into addictive crunchy snacks. With a little extra prep, you can make your own homemade fruit leathers, crackers, and jerky! More ideas here.
Dehydrating is done at fairly low temperatures, so it’s pretty gentle on the nutrients. Dried fruits and vegetables will have almost the same nutritional value as their fresh counterparts, but in a much smaller package. Two cups of fresh produce might fit into the palm of your hand once it’s been dried.
That means that each bite delivers a concentrated dose of nutrients–but nutrients aren’t the only thing that gets concentrated; dried fruit also contains a concentrated amount of sugar. That’s why the serving size for dried fruit is usually just 1/4 cup, or a small handful.
Still, a second handful of dried fruit beats a handful of M&Ms. And to the extent that a dehydrator makes it easy to eat more fruits and vegetables, I’d say its a net nutritional plus.
A countertop dehydrator like the one shown above will set you back $100+ dollars (although you might be able to snag a used one on your neighborhood list-serve for a lot less). And if you’re into that sort of thing, it can easily pay for itself by reducing food waste and saving money on processed snacks.