Whole Food Center
Drying and processing whole foods into powders is the most important step in making a whole food product. The others are ethical sourcing, good farming practices, and quality control at the facility where the foods are processed.
Many foods are sterilized before being turned into powders. Sterilization can be done in a variety of ways:
Autoclaves: Highly effective and inexpensive. Unsuitable for heat-sensitive objects.
Hot air ovens: Inefficient compared to autoclaves.
Ethylene oxide: Suitable for heat sensitive items but leaves toxic residue on sterilized items.
Low-temperature steam and formaldehyde: Effective for instruments with cavities or tubular openings.
Sporicidal chemicals: Often used as disinfectants but can also sterilize instruments if used for prolonged periods.
Irradiation: Gamma rays and accelerated electrons are excellent at sterilization.
All of those methods will affect the quality of the finished product. We believe that sterilizing the food in any of those ways will be detrimental to the final product, so none of the products sold in our Whole Food Center are sterilized. By using really great raw materials, purchased directly from the farmers, and proper quality control, the products we recommend have no need for sterilization.
Traditional spray drying (there are some newer, rarely used versions that are not as damaging) is the least desirable form of drying food materials and the finished product leaves a lot to be desired. Despite this, it is the most common way that whole food powders are made. This is a high heat process that causes a lot of nutrients and cofactors. It some cases, it can be so harsh that the processing actually changes the structure of the original food into something different.
During spray drying, the ingredient is atomized via a spraying mechanism into a superheated chamber where hot gases cause raw material to instantly dry. Spray-dried materials also usually have to be sprayed onto a carrier, such as maltodextrin. If you see maltodextrin in the ingredients, you can be pretty sure the product was spray dried.
High quality food powders should not need any carrier for drying.
Another method of drying we do not recommend is drum drying. Pureed raw materials are applied to rotating drums, which are then internally steam-heated up to a temperature of 300 degrees. At that temperature, a lot of the enzymes, phytonutrients and other compounds get destroyed. There is also a marked difference in the color of the finished product, versus the fresh food. None of the products in our Whole Food Center are drum dried.
Here are some drying methods we do like:
Sun Drying - Sun drying is one of the oldest methods. It is a very slow and gentle process and it preserves all the goodness of a food. Many companies have abandoned it because it is not fast enough for the modern mass production of products. Many of our food powders are dried using this method. Foods are spread out across the ground, allowing the natural heat from the sun to evaporate the moisture until the food is at its ideal moisture content. No carrier is needed for drying.
Freeze Drying (also known as lyophilization) - Ingredients are dried via rapid freezing followed by subjection to extreme vacuum (low pressure) which removes water via sublimation.
Refractance Window Drying - One of the newer drying methods on the market. This one is one of our favorites. Our Mt Capra Goat Milk Products and a few others are made using this technology. Fresh product puree is applied to film conveyor belt which sits atop circulating hot water. As the product moves over hot water evaporation and exhaust remove moisture within 5 - 10 minutes without carriers or high temperature leaving behind a finished product with phytonutrients, colors, and flavors undamaged. The drying temperature is so low, you could hold it in your hand while it dries. This method is the best, sun-dried is the other best, at preserving the most color, enzymes, and co-factors found in fresh food. No carrier is needed for drying.
To sum it all up, we want drying methods that preserve the structure, color, and compounds in the food as much as possible. Think of drying methods as the difference between an amazing chef who coaxes the most out of simple ingredients to create an amazing dish and that person we all know who cannot even make a Hot Pocket in the microwave.