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Miracle Berries

I have a confession: I have a sweet tooth. This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s read about my experiments with baking and vegan ice cream. It also contributed to my weight gain when I was younger; at certain points, no candy (particularly if it had chocolate) or baked goodies were safe around me.

My desire – which often felt like need – for super-sugary foods has declined over the years. I instead enjoy a range of flavors, including some tartness, and I appreciate natural sweetness much more. Fruit never tasted this good when I was a kid, and things like sugar snap peas and ripe corn almost seem as sweet as candy once did.

So it was quite an interesting experience to try miracle berries. For those unfamiliar with them, these are fruits, usually purchased in dried form, that change your taste receptors so that bitter and sour things suddenly seem sweet. It’s temporary, but while it’s in effect, it’s potent.

First I tried lemon. This involved sucking it straight off the peel, no sugar, not diluted in water, just pure lemon. And it tasted like sweetened lemonade, or a lemon candy. Key limes and red grapefruit were similar, and even a sip of apple cider vinegar was very palatable. Even the flavors of some naturally sweet fruits, particularly berries, were enhanced. It was an utterly strange but fun experience, almost like something from Willy Wonka.

These berries are apparently quite popular among diabetics, and they can even help some cancer patients who experience a metallic taste after having chemo.

The obvious question, then, is would this help with weight loss?

I don’t honestly know. My take on it is that this might be a good tool for people, but not an overall fix. After all, my desire for candy bars and the rest had something to do with taste, but not everything. Even when I wanted something sugary, I was often eating too quickly to get the full experience of sweetness, since I was afraid someone would catch me. It was more about the act of eating, as well as the forbidden, illicit aspect of those foods.

For those early days when I truly felt I needed a sugar hit, it might have helped. But I still would have needed to understand why I was eating in the first place to get to a point where that craving wasn’t so insistent or frequent.

Regardless of why people use the miracle berries, it’s fascinating to try and think about how easily what we consider “sweet” can change. It makes me wonder about other tastes, and how we can reshape our whole experience of food with something so small. From that perspective, they do, indeed, seem miraculous.

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