Miracle Berry Diet: Could Plan Hold Key to Weight Loss?

Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

Could a wild berry grown in West Africa change the future of food and dieting as we know it?

The answer is a resounding yes from Homaro Cantu, the acclaimed chef known for his futuristic gastronomy and flavor-changing dining experiences at Chicago restaurants Moto and iNG.

Cantu discovered wild berries six years ago while working with a cancer patient who'd lost her sense of taste as a result of chemotherapy, and set out to explore the plant and put it to the test in his kitchen.

Nicknamed the miracle berry, the organic, non-genetically modified plant contains a protein called miraculin, which latches on to the sour receptors on taste buds, temporarily inhibiting the taste of sour flavors, and changing the flavors in spicy, salty and bitter foods. A glass of water with lemon tastes like lemonade after taking the miracle berry pill.

"It tricks your tongue into thinking something that's sour, is sweet," Cantu tells " Good Morning America."

But flavor-tripping cuisine is not the only potential Cantu sees in the berries. In his new cookbook, " The Miracle Berry Diet Cookbook," Cantu explains that the berries can help in eliminating sugar and sweeteners from a diet altogether. He has developed hundreds of recipes that cut back on sugar and use the berries instead to add flavor.

The recipes in this book don't have miracle berry as an ingredient but are designed to interact with a miracle berry tablet. Before eating place a tablet on your tongue and let it dissolve completely. It takes approximately three minutes for the pill to kick in and change sour to sweet.

Lemons taste like sweet, sweet lemonade. Lime tastes like an orange, and the flavors of tomatoes, strawberries and more pop, he says. Spices are toned down and the things like hot sauce of hot pepper take on a sweet dimension, he says.

See below for his recipes on Orange Waffles, made with lime juice but no real oranges, and Teriyaki chicken. The dish contains no sugar but uses lemon juice and orange juice, and the miracle berries to produce the same flavor.

On "Good Morning America," Cantu demonstrated how nonfat, plain Greek yogurt could taste like cheesecake by adding lime juice and taking a miracle berry pill. The effects of the tablets last 30 to 40 minutes.

The berries are available in a pill, powder or plant form. Cantu recommends using the tablets because they have a longer shelf-life than buying the whole berries, which last only a day in the fridge, and are more economical, he writes in the cookbook. The brand, mberry, sells 10 tablets for $15 on its website. The tablets must be stored in a cool, dry place, according to Cantu.

Cantu believes miracle berries will revolutionize eating habits, and by cutting back on the amount of refined sugar in American diets, they might help curb the rate of diabetes.

Recipe for 'Orange Waffles':

Makes 3 servings

"Yes, these are called "orange waffled" even though there is no orange in this recipe. That is because of the miracle berry sweetens the lime juice and makes it taste like orange. A perfectly sweet orange waffle is the result."


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 cup skim milk

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsaltedbutter, melted

Canola oil spray

Cherry Compote (page 166), for serving


Heat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions. If not serving the waffles as soon as each is cooked, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. In third bowl, beat the egg yolks, milk, lime juice, and butter. Whisk in the flour mixture, making sure to break up most of the lumps.Gently fold in the egg whites, one-third at a time, to keep the batter as light and airy as possible.

Spray a bit of canola oil on the waffle iron grids. Pour in the recommended amount of batter. Close the waffle iron and cook until golden brown; don't peek until it's done.

Serve hot, or place on a baking sheet in a single layer to keep warm in the oven. Serve with cherry compote.

Replacing 2 tablespoons of sugar with the sweetness from the berry saves 32 calories per serving. Using our Cherry Compote instead of traditional cherry compote saves an additional 77 calories for a total of 109 calories saved per serving.

Recipe for Teriyaki Chicken:

Makes 4 servings

"Teriyaki sauce is loaded with sugar. In this recipe not only does removing the sugar yield a more delicious result, but the health benefits are obvious. I really love how the lemon and orange juices provide great flavors and complement the raisins perfectly."


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Salt and ground black pepper

½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

½ cup raisins

1 cup hot water

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Canola oil spray

2 teaspoons cornstarch


Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag. In a blender or food processor, combine the soy sauce, raisins, water, orange juice, lemon juice, garlic powder, and onion powder. Puree until smooth. Pour into the bag over the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with canola oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Arrange the chicken on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through and the juices run clear when the chicken is cut with a knife.

Pour the reserved marinade into a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until sauce is reduced by half. Mix the cornstarch with a little water to make a slurry and stir into the sauce. Bring back to a boil and cook until thickened. Brush onto the cooked chicken.

When you are ready to eat, let the miracle berry tablet dissolve on your tongue and then enjoy the dish.

Replacing 1/2 cup of sugar with the sweetness from the berry saves 96 calories per serving.

Recipe for Chocolate Ice Cream:

Makes 1 quart (6 servings )

"This recipe will certainly have you guessing until you eat it. The texture is really velvety smooth due to the cream cheese and egg yolks. It's perfect with the miracle berry."


1 cup heavy cream

2 cups half-and-half

8 large egg yolks

¼ cup agave nectar

? teaspoon salt

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (1 cup)


Combine the heavy cream and half-and-half in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until barely simmering, stirring frequently. Turn down the heat to low.

Whisk together the egg yolks, agave nectar, salt, and cocoa powder in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot cream and whisk vigorously to combine. Repeat three times, whisking thoroughly after each addition. Gradually add the tempered egg yolks back to the hot cream and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the ice cream base thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, 5 to 8 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.

Using a hand blender, add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Strain the ice cream base through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour, until cold.

Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

When you are ready to eat, let the miracle berry tablet dissolve on your tongue and then enjoy the dish.

Replacing 1 ½ cups of sugar with ¼ cup of agave nectar and the sweetness from the berry saves 152 calories per serving.