Contributed by Jennifer Dawson

If you have always dreamed of freeze drying ingredients for use in healthy dishes to create raw savory and sweet delights, then here’s another good reason to do so - these foods can help make you more resistant to disease. Immunity is the buzzword in current times, with the Nutrition Business Journal reporting that immunity supplement sales are expected to rise above 25% in 2020. If you prefer to source your vitamins and nutrients from life-giving plant-based foods, through, then freeze drying is one way to add a bit of excitement and a plethora of new textures to your dishes. Check out what science has to say about the plentiful benefits of this way of preserving and enjoying food.


What Is Dehydration Of Food?

Dehydration/drying is a way to stabilize and conserve a plethora of products. In general, the best way to retain the many bioactive compounds in food is to dry food at low temperatures - i.e. to use the freeze-drying method. By drying foods at low temperatures, the greatest preservation of antioxidant properties is obtained, and the viability of probiotics is maintained. Both antioxidants and probiotics can help keep you healthy and energetic. Probiotics can help boost your gut health, while antioxidants can significantly improve specific immune responses.


Choosing Foods With Bioactive Compounds

In research published in the Journal of Food Quality, Rui Morais and colleagues share knowledge about the health preserving effects of ‘functional’ dehydrated foods. These foods are those containing bioactive compounds such as prebiotics, peptides, polyphenols, carotenoids, phenolic compounds, fatty acids, and phytosterols. Foods that are dehydrated yet retain significant levels of these compounds include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and algae. Functional foods provide additional physiological benefits beyond their immediate nutrition. They boost the immunity by preventing the damage caused by oxidative stress. Flavonoids, for instance, prevent fat oxidation and protect vitamins and enzymes. Thus, they enable the body to make the most of the healthful nutrition it receives.


Freeze Drying Mediterranean Foods

In general, it is known that the Mediterranean diet fights aging and disease. This diet comprises lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy fats. Many of these foods can be placed in a a freeze dryer, and in addition to favorites like zucchini, peppers and carrots, why not try adding superfoods into the equation? Shiitake mushrooms are a good one to try, since a University of Florida study has shown that they improve the functioning of gamma delta T-cells - which are key when it comes to staving off disease.


How Does Dehydration Affect The Immune-Enhancing Effects Of Ingredients?

Morais and his fellow researchers found that there was a slight loss of phytochemicals during pretreatment and/or drying. For instance, there was a 15.7% loss of carotenoids from carrots, and a 5% loss of carotenoids from paprika. However, losses were not large, and for some ingredients, there was a much lower loss of nutrients when freeze drying (as opposed to oven and sun drying) was used. This was the case, for instance, for the Vitamin C in seaweed. For other nutrients (such as Vitamin D3 in milk), the losses from drying were negligible.


Freeze drying is a wonderful way to play around with traditional recipes. You can try making everything from vegan bacon (using freeze dried zucchini and spices) to raw desserts with delicious dried fruits, and more. Know that even if a little nutritional loss can occur with drying, this loss is negligible - particularly if you rely on the freeze drying method.