I changed the way I eat recently. I say it that way and not that I’m on a diet because I want my eating habits to shift permanently. Diets leave me open to failure, to regression. So I’m reducing portions, going for 60/40 raw to cooked food and cutting out sugar. It seems to be working apart from the odd packet of crisps when I’m feeling tired and lazy. Crisps will be the last thing to go being so tied into my emotions from comforting myself after giving up smoking in another life. I was tucking into my new healthy breakfast of two glasses of water, a cup of coffee and half a grapefruit the other morning when Adam told me he had read somewhere that grapefruit can interfere with drug absorption. I paused in mid-spoon and looked at my ‘healthy’ fruit anew. Adam doesn’t glibly throw out information like this so it warranted further investigation.
I made a quick Google effort but either my search terms were lacking or my brain, because all the information on the subject came from unreliable sites. So I left a message for my Breast Care Nurse asking half-laughingly if my grapefruit breakfast was nullifying my life-saving drugs. When she called me back the answer was ‘yes’. It seems a chemical in grapefruits called furanocoumarin shuts down an enzyme in the gut that is crucial to absorbing certain drugs. Apparently they told me not to eat it during chemotherapy and advise to avoid it while still on medication. When I was in the middle of chemo and actually all of my life up to that point, grapefruits were certainly very far from my mind. As far as I was concerned they were evil oranges. I suppose because they weren’t on my radar, I saw the advisory on them as irrelevant to me as the warning about shellfish. It never occurred to me that grapefruit was ‘dangerous’ as well as horrible tasting.
But my tastes have changed as I’ve thrown out sugar and brought in more fruits and veg. I’ve embraced tastes that made me squeeze my eyes shut before. As the historian Bee Wilson writes, food preferences are learned through culture and not biology, so can be easily shifted. Evidence my shift to eating chilli, coffee and sushi after extreme husbandly peer pressure over the years. I am resistant to having to choose between grapefruit and life-saving drugs though. Why am I even spending one minute longer on this quite obvious decision? I suppose the shift to grapefruit was the single biggest change to my eating habits that symbolises that small bit of control I might have over improving my own health. Having spent my whole life hating grapefruit and only recently learning to love it, I now have to give it up. And give up that big change I made. But I guess they are evil oranges after all and I’ll have to make do with plain old oranges. Except for Seville oranges, because those are bad too. And pomegranete.. and star fruit. Sigh.