The miracle fruit. Is it a label, an actual plant or just another myth spread by the organic/green/health food crowd? The answer depends on who you ask.
To the botanist (or well informed green grocer), Synsepalum dulcificum is the scientific name of an African berry known as the Miracle Fruit or Miracle Berry Plant. In this case, miracle fruit gets its name from an unusual ability to block sour tastes thanks to a compound it contains called miraculin. People who eat this miracle fruit can then eat a lemon and it will taste sweet, not sour. A miracle?
Scientific studies that identify new qualities in a wide range of already known plants and accompanying news headlines have created the concept of a “miracle fruit” in the press. The problem is the actual fruit changes from year to year and the definition of miracle is a moving target. One of the current owners of the crown is the familiar blueberry, long considered to be part of a healthy diet but now credited with extraordinary dietary benefits due to its high concentration of antioxidants that studies suggest might fend off the damaging effects of free radicals. The scientist, who headed up the Tufts University study that discovered the anthocyanins that give blueberries their deep blue color, recommends that people add half a cup of the berries to their diet every day. Last year it was acai berries from the Amazon rain forest, the region suspected to have all sorts of undiscovered herb vitamins and plants with potential pharmaceutical applications. At other times the headlines have urged people to eat grapefruit, kiwi fruit and cranberries.
So, with all the headlines and ongoing studies, is it possible that the concept of a miracle fruit is basically an urban myth? Well, it might be better to think of it that way. Certainly there are many fruits that have benefits as part of your diet, but to claim that any one of them has super powers is likely an exaggeration or based on results unlikely to be duplicated outside of a laboratory. The safe bet is to eat a balanced diet and include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. One saying goes that if you eat a plate of food that’s as colorful as possible, it will maximize the healthy benefits to your body. Colorful certainly includes room for blue. While you’re at it, cover all the bases and include a rounded dose of vitamins and supplements as well.