Are The Viral Miracle Berries on TikTok Actually Healthy? Experts Weigh In.
With the leaves turning and temps dropping, it’s official: summer is over. While we mourn the end of the warm weather, it’s also a time to sadly say goodbye to all of our favorite delectable summer fruits. True, the grocery store is still stocked with any fruit you can imagine. Craving a watermelon in December? No problem! Need strawberries for a romantic Valentine’s Day? You got it! But, we’d be lying to ourselves if we said fruits harvested in winter are equivalent to ones picked at peak ripeness during summer. In-season fruits are juicy, sweet, and full of flavor whereas off-season fruits are… not. Enter miracle berries, the magical freeze-dried fruit that has taken TikTok by storm. What makes them so miraculous? Their scientifically-proven ability to make foods taste sweet; fresh lemons taste like lemonade, out-of-season strawberries seem like they’re sugar-coated, and even nostalgic “warheads” candies become tolerable (IYKYK).
From everything we’ve read, the taste-altering berries seem like the answer to our prayers. They trick our taste buds into thinking tasteless winter fruit is delicious and tangy foods are sweet. But, if you’re anything like us, you’re probably wondering: what’s the catch? We reached out to dietitians to find out if “miracle berries” are too good to be true.
Miracle berries change flavors naturally
While new to us, the miracle fruit has actually been around for hundreds of years. They hail from the tropical West African plant synsepalum dulcificum. Unlike other foods, these “miracle berries” contain a glycoprotein called miraculin, which binds to the sweet taste bud receptors and causes sour foods to turn sweet. Interestingly enough, the berry itself is not sweet and is quite flavorless when consumed.
In the States, the fruit is mostly distributed by mberry and comes in freeze-fried and tablet form. According to the company website, in order to activate the berry, you need to keep the berry in your mouth for about a minute so it coats the entire tongue. The effects last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on the person.
So, are miracle berries actually healthy?
In small quantities, the berries aren’t super nutritious, but they can offer a lot of health benefits. For people looking to limit their sugar-intake, the “miracle berries” can be a great way to fulfill sweet cravings without having to consume sugar. Kaytee Hadley, MS, RDN, IFMCP, CPT, a functional medicine dietitian in Richmond, VA, says that the berries can be beneficial for “supertasters,” picky eaters, and those suffering from poor appetites.
“Whether you’re a supertaster or just a bit picky, miracle berries could help you expand your diet by making these foods taste more sweet,” Hadley says. “On the other hand, these aren’t literally ‘miracle berries,’ so if you already eat a really nutritious diet, then adding the berries won’t give you a big nutritional benefit.”
Hadley adds that since the miraculous berries can help food taste more enjoyable, they can increase calorie, vitamin, and minerals intake among those suffering from poor appetite, whether from certain drugs, old age, or medical conditions. Lastly, research has shown that the fruit can improve the sweetness of low-sugar desserts, making it a possible sugar substitute for those with diabetes.
Overall, Washington DC-based dietitian Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, says that the miracle fruit is perfectly fine to consume. The only thing to be aware of is that they don’t contain much nutrition and they can put you at risk of overconsuming acidic foods, which can be especially problematic for those who suffer from acid reflux.
Hadley cautions that you might find yourself eating more than normal because everything tastes sweet, so be mindful of your body’s hunger and fullness cues!
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