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As recently as 50 years ago, most Americans knew how to store food and preserve vitamins, freshness, and flavor. Outside of the inner cities, almost every homemaker knew how to preserve fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat for unexpected interruptions

Dried Foods Concentrate Nutrients, Home-Canned Foods Are Naturally Low Glycemic Index

Americans knew how to store food because just a generation earlier, for many food had been hard to get. But the 1960's ushered in the era of fast food followed an era of eating out, and more people learned about how to diet to lose weight (over and over again) than learned how to maintain food insecurity in the face of crisis.

Now the pendulum has swung back toward individual families taking care of their own food security—but it does not do any good to store food if one does not know how to preserve nutrition. Fortunately, storing food and preserving vitamins and other nutrients is easier now than it was in the home canning era of the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's.

Drying Food to Preserve Nutrients and Prevent Spoilage

Dried food sometimes has phenomenal nutritional content. Dried vegetables and fruits pack up to 25 times more nutrition than their fresh counterparts.

  • An 100-gram serving of fresh carrots, for example, contains 7,047 micrograms of beta-carotene. In a 100-gram portion of dried carrots, there are 33,954 micrograms of beta-carotene.
  • A 100-gram portion of fresh sweet red peppers contains 171 mg of vitamin C. A 100-portion of dried sweet red peppers contains 1,900 mg of vitamin C.
  • In 100 grams of raw fresh tomatoes there are 2,573 micrograms of lycopene. A 100-gram portion of dried tomato powder contains 49,263 micrograms of lycopene.

There is a secret in drying food for maximum nutrition

The key to maximizing nutrition of dried foods is to dry them slowly, at temperatures below 45° C/113° F. Drying in a dryer or desiccator removes the water from food so that microorganisms cannot grow, but it does not compromise color or flavor. Dried foods retain their flavor and nutrient value for a very long time—there are records of dried beans remaining edible for nearly 1,000 years after storage. Under home conditions, however, you can expect dried foods kept in a cool, dry place to keep for two to ten years.

To dry foods at home, you need a dehydrator and storage containers. Glass jars react less with food, although plastic containers are OK if you are only storing food for a year or two.

Canning Food to Preserve Nutrients and Storage

Canning food at home involves putting food in sealed jars, not metal cans. Home canning was invented in the early nineteenth century.

In the canning process, foods are sealed in a jar and then heated to kill bacteria, a popping sound as the jar cools a guarantee that the rubber ring around the lid has formed a vacuum seal that will keep air and bacteria out. Acid foods such as tomatoes, pickles, fruit, and jams can be heated in a water bath, but low-acid foods, such as nearly all other vegetables and any canned goods including meat, have to be heated in a pressure cooker to ensure that all botulinum bacteria are killed before the jar is sealed.

Beans are actually made more nutritious by home canning. The conversion of the starches in beans into sugars released into the bloodstream is six times faster in boiled beans than in home canned beans. Commercial canned beans (in metal cans) are intermediate between the homemade canned beans and beans prepared on a stove top.

If you have diabetes, eating home canned beans instead of beans you soak and boil or beans you get from a can you buy at the market can actually make a measurable difference in your blood sugar control.

To can food at home you will need Ball or Mason jars and a pressure cooker with an rack that you can use to lift out hot jars to place them on a cloth to cool. Home-canned foods should be stored at room temperature or cooler, but not allowed to freeze.

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