How healthy are dry foods?Are there benefits to drying food?
How healthy are dry foods? – Jerky, fruit and other dry snacks are tasty and easy to store and eat. Drying or dehydration is one of the oldest ways of preserving food. It makes them last longer and keeps them safe to eat. Nutritionally, the food stays pretty much the same, although the drying process can destroy vitamins A and C. And the calorie count can increase as the food shrinks and the nutrients become more concentrated.
Jerky comes from the Spanish word “charqui”, which means strips of dried meat. You can make it with almost any lean cut of meat like beef, pork, or turkey. Beef jerky is high in protein, with about 9 grams per ounce. It is low in carbohydrates and high in nutrients like zinc, B12, and iron. It is high in sodium. One ounce gives you almost 22% of what you need for the day. An ounce also has about 14 milligrams of cholesterol.
Turkey jerky is rich in protein. A 1-ounce piece is about 11 grams. But it’s also packed with sodium, about 11% of what you should be consuming throughout the day. It has about 10 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce. Turkey generally has less fat, especially saturated fat, than beef jerky. Look for turkey jerky made with white meat, which has less fat than dark meat.
An ounce of pork jerky offers about 10 grams of protein, along with other key nutrients like magnesium, iron, and folic acid. It also serves about 15% of your daily sodium needs.
Salmon jerky provides about 11 grams of protein per ounce along with omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your chances of heart disease and stroke. But the picture is not all rosy. It also has about 21% of your daily sodium and 25 milligrams of cholesterol.
Raisins are dried grapes. They are rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells. They are also a good source of fiber, iron, and potassium. Raisins lose water and shrink during the drying process, so the sugar and calories that remain are more concentrated. Also, some brands have added sugar. A large handful (1 ounce) of 60 raisins has 17 grams of sugar.
Dried apricots are richer in most nutrients than fresh apricots. A serving of 5-6 dried apricots has more than four times the fiber of a whole fresh apricot. Fiber helps reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Dried apricots also have more potassium, iron, and calcium. But they are also much higher in calories and sugar. And they lose most of their vitamin A and C during the drying process.
Prunes are dried plums. Except for a few vitamins, most nutrients are better in prunes than plums. They are high in potassium, iron, fiber, and vitamin K, as well as antioxidants. Like other dried fruits, they are high in calories and sugar. Prunes also relieve constipation.
Dried berries tend to have more nutrients, such as fiber, iron, and potassium, than fresh fruit. But when the water is removed, the sugar and calories add up. Blueberries are known to be rich in antioxidants. But they lose up to half of those powerful substances when they dry out.
From broccoli to squash, most vegetables can be dried for snacks or for later use in soups or other dishes. Just like fruits, dried vegetables can retain more nutrients than their fresh versions. But they can also lose vitamins A and C during drying.
Using an oven
Set the temperature to 140 degrees or your food will cook instead of dry. Leave the door open a few inches so that moist air can escape. If you can, place a fan outside the oven door to help move air inside. You can use special trays or turn your oven racks into trays by lining them with muslin or cheesecloth. Lay out the items in a single layer and turn them over every few hours. Food will take several hours to dry.
Use a dehydrator
Dehydrators take less time and use less energy than an oven. Most produce needs to be blanched in boiling water first to stop bacteria and get the best flavor. Put the pieces in a single layer on a tray at 140 degrees. To help food dry evenly, rotate trays from top to bottom rack halfway. Times vary, but it will take several hours.
Sun drying only works well in places with low humidity and high temperatures most of the day. And it is only a good idea for drying fruits. Place slices on clean racks or screens and cover with mesh, cheesecloth, or other mesh. Install a fan to blow across the shelves. Sun drying needs constant sun and can take several days. Be sure to bring food inside at night.
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