The all-natural food preservative straight from the Australian tropics

Think chemical preservatives in our food supply are unavoidable? Many people do — and if you take a look at the labels on the supermarket shelf, it’s not hard to see why. But I just don’t buy it.

I think that if you work with Mother Nature — not against her — you’ll find everything you need to eat a clean, delicious, and nutritious diet. And you just might find some surprises too.

Like the all-natural, plant-based preservative about to make its debut in Australia.

As you know, I am a big fan of eating foods that don’t even need preservatives of any kind. That’s possible if you buy everything fresh, local, and organic. But I’m also not naïve.

I know that’s not even possible all the time. I see it when I eat out. I know that at most restaurants, I’m almost guaranteed a side of preservatives with whatever main dish I’ve ordered. And in some parts of the world, fresh food just isn’t available in all seasons.

So maybe preservatives are here to stay. But that doesn’t mean that they need to come straight out of a chem lab.

That’s why I was very excited when I read a new report on an edible fruit produced by trees in the tropical woodlands of Australia. It’s called the kakadu plum, and it’s making waves in the seafood industry for its ability to improve the shelf-life and color retention of shrimp.

This small green fruit, which also goes by the names gubinge, murunga, bush plum, and billygoat plum, may just be the alternative to chemical preservatives that the food industry needs. In fact, it appears to work even better than chemical preservatives.

Researchers tested this unique fruit on cooked shrimp. And they found that replacing chemical preservatives with kakadu plum produces a shelf life of up to 21 days. That’s a full week longer than the current standard.

If the evidence continues to hold true, the researchers think they may actually be able to replace the chemical preservatives used by the seafood industry entirely with a safe, natural alternative.

Bonus: Kakadu plum is said to have the highest vitamin C concentration of any food on earth. Just 100 grams of the fruit (about 3.5 ounces) can contain anywhere from 1,000 to 5,300 mg of vitamin C. That’s about 100 times greater than the vitamin C concentration of blueberries and oranges. And it has other antioxidants too — both water- and oil-soluble —which is uncommon in fruits and vegetables.

The reason for kakadu’s impressive antioxidant concentration is actually self-preservation. Plants produce antioxidants to protect themselves from their harsh environments. And that’s good news for the people who eat them, since we know that antioxidants like vitamin C are essential for protecting and promoting human health.

Unfortunately, this fruit isn’t widely available yet. Australia is just getting set to harvest the first crop of plantation-grown kakadu. And who knows whether commercially grown kakadu plums will have the same properties as the ones found in the wild. And it may also be a long time before the fruit becomes widely used by the seafood industry, let alone whether it will make its way into other foods and drinks.

But here’s what I do know: This possibility of an all-natural preservative wouldn’t even be on the table if it weren’t for people like us. Do you think the food industry sets out to find healthier alternatives out of goodwill? No, it’s all about the bottom line.

So when a seafood industry study revealed that more than one-quarter of seafood consumers wanted to get away from chemical preservatives, the number-crunchers were forced to take note.

Those of us who continue to stand up and demand healthier foods are making a difference, one ingredient at a time. If it hadn’t been for us (and other like-minded people) demanding non-chemical alternatives to pretty much everything, we probably wouldn’t even know that this plum exists. I applaud you for that, and I thank you for traveling on this journey to good health with me.

Because you know as well as I do that this planet has everything we need to sustain ourselves. And if we just keep looking, we’ll figure out how to eat — and yes, even preserve — our foods naturally.