Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are great for backpacking or survival situations. But before you start planning to make freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, you need to understand the nutritional value of each.
When you’re thinking about what kinds of food to stockpile in case of an emergency, dehydrated food likely comes to mind. But do you understand the differences between dehydration and freeze-drying and the nutritional value of each?
Dehydrated foods have existed for centuries as a way to store food until the next harvest. Freeze-drying is a relatively new process, beginning only a few decades ago. Both methods are popular and are useful in given situations, but in order to select the best options you should know the benefits of each:
Process: Fresh/cooked foods are put in a dryer which freezes them to at least -40F. Then it creates a powerful vacuum and begins to re-warm the food. As the food warms in the vacuum, the ice turns into water vapor and evaporates. Freeze drying removes 96-99% of moisture. Learn more about the freeze-drying process here.
Shelf Life: Freeze-dried foods are shelf-stable for about 25 years. The color, texture, and taste remain similar after rehydrating.
Nutrition: Freeze-dried foods retain virtually all of their nutrients. The process of freeze-drying allows the vitamins and minerals to remain in the food so that when the food is rehydrated it contains the same amount of nutrients as when it was fresh.
Rehydrating: The other major benefit of freeze-dried foods is that they are incredibly convenient to eat. They can be quickly rehydrated (under 5min) using either hot or cold water. This is especially important in survival situations in which fuel is limited. Additionally, it is recommended that you use coconut or olive oil in rehydrating freeze-dried food to add flavor and provide your body with a much-needed healthy fat.
Process: The food is heated with warm air to make the water inside the food begin evaporating. If you are dehydrating your foods yourself you can control the temperature and time, but typically dehydration removes 80-85% of moisture.
Shelf Life: Compared to the 25-year shelf-life of freeze-dried foods, dehydrated foods typically last about 5 years.
Nutrition: Dehydrated foods lose about 50% of their nutritional value in the heating process, since the foods begin to cook during warming.
Rehydrating: Dehydrated foods usually take 10-20min to rehydrate using boiling water. Again, it is recommended that you add coconut oil or olive oil to rehydrated food to add flavor and nutrients.
Since freeze-drying is a relatively new process, dehydrated foods are still more widely available than freeze-dried foods. However, freeze-dried foods retain almost double the nutrients as dehydrated foods and they are easier and faster to rehydrate. Whether you are facing a survival situation, going camping for the weekend, or stocking up on emergency supplies for your family, freeze-dried meals are the superior choice.