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There’s no mistaking it: Americans love to eat. Enjoying good food with good company is one of life’s great pleasures. And yet, frequent over-indulgences can have a detrimental impact on conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes, which take a substantial toll on individuals, communities and our healthcare system. Replacing foods and beverages high in calories and added sugars with ones that are lower in sugar is one option to help reduce intake of excess calories. In turn, this may help reduce the risk of obesity and related chronic diseases. One group of low-calorie sweeteners, monk fruit sweeteners, are used in foods and beverages as a way to lower intake of added sugars while still providing satisfaction from enjoying something sweet. This fact sheet will examine many topics of interest around monk fruit sweeteners and health so that you can make informed decisions about their place in your diet.

WHAT ARE MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS?

Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo or Swingle fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), is a small round fruit native to southern China. It has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine as a cold and digestive aid, and now it is also being used to sweeten foods and beverages. Monk fruit sweeteners are created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice. The fruit extract, or juice, contains zero calories per serving. Monk fruit sweeteners are permitted for use in foods and beverages by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The compounds that give ripe monk fruit its sweetness are called mogrosides, which consist of a backbone structure called a mogrol with glucose units or glycosides attached to it. Most of what is known about mogroside metabolism comes from studies done in animals, which is thought to be the same or similar to mogroside metabolism in humans. Mogrosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and do not contribute to any calories to our diet. When they reach the colon, gut microbes cleave off the glucose molecules and use them as an energy source. The mogrol and some metabolites are then primarily excreted from the gastrointestinal tract, while minor amounts are absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine (Zhou 2018, Xu 2015, Murata 2010).

Monk fruit sweeteners are 150-200 times sweeter than sugar and contribute sweetness to foods and beverages without adding calories. They are found in Nectresse®, PureLo®, Purefruit®, Fruit-Sweetness® and Monk Fruit in the Raw®, as well as other retail products sold under store brand names. Monk fruit sweeteners are used in beverages and foods like soft drinks, juices, dairy products, desserts, candies and condiments. Because they are stable at high temperatures, monk fruit sweeteners can be used in baked goods. However, a food containing monk fruit sweeteners may be slightly different in appearance, texture and taste than the same food made with sugar, as sugar contributes to the structure and texture of foods.

Like all no- and low-calorie sweeteners, only very small amounts of monk fruit sweeteners are needed to achieve the sweetness of sugar. To make measuring and pouring easier, they are typically blended with common approved food ingredients. This is why a packet of monk fruit sweeteners seems equal in quantity to a packet of table sugar, for example.

ARE MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS SAFE TO CONSUME?

YES. Monk fruit sweeteners have been permitted as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDAsince 2010, a category which requires expert consensus that a food ingredient is safe for its intended use. Governments in Australia and New Zealand, China, Japan and Canada (tabletop packets only; not approved for use in foods and beverages) have also concluded that monk fruit sweeteners are safe for the general population, including children, people with diabetes, and women who are pregnant or nursing. An acceptable daily intake (ADI) has not been established for monk fruit sweeteners because adverse effects have not been demonstrated, even after high amounts of monk fruit sweeteners were given in animal studies. The ADI typically represents an amount 100 times less than the quantity of a substance found to be safe in research studies.

ARE MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS SAFE FOR CHILDREN?

YES. Foods that include monk fruit sweeteners can add sweetness to a child’s diet without contributing to increased calorie intake, sugar intake or risk of cavities. While no research has been published on monk fruit sweetener intake in children, no negative effects on health have been demonstrated in animal models or adults. As with adults, current intake of low-calorie sweeteners in children is considered to be well within acceptable levels. Due to limited studies in children, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not have official recommendations on low-calorie sweetener intake.

CAN PREGNANT AND BREASTFEEDING WOMEN CONSUME MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS?

YES. While no published research has examined possible effects of monk fruit sweeteners on pregnant and lactating women, several studies in animals have demonstrated no adverse reproductive or developmental effects on mother or offspring, even when animals were exposed to very high levels of mogrosides every day over long periods of time (Yang 2015, FSANZ 2018). All women should try to consume the necessary nutrients and calories for their baby’s growth during pregnancy and breastfeeding, while taking care not to exceed their needs. This may include being mindful of all sources of sweeteners, whether they be from sugar or low-calorie sweeteners.

CAN PEOPLE WITH DIABETES CONSUME MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS?

YES. Products containing monk fruit sweeteners provide a sweet taste and are often low or lower in carbohydrates, which is important for people who must monitor their carbohydrate intake. Monk fruit sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels. The 2018 American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes state that, “The use of nonnutritive sweeteners may have the potential to reduce overall calorie and carbohydrate intake if substituted for caloric (sugar) sweeteners and without compensation by intake of additional calories from other food sources. Nonnutritive sweeteners are generally safe to use within the defined acceptable daily intake levels.” Nonetheless, people with diabetes should talk with a registered dietitian, healthcare professional or a certified diabetes educator for advice on healthy eating to improve blood sugar control.

WHAT IS AN ADI?

The acceptable daily intake, or ADI, is the average daily intake over a lifetime that is expected to be safe based on significant research (WHO 2009). It is usually derived by determining the highest intake level found to have no adverse effects in lifetime studies in animal models. These studies are required by FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world before permitting any new food ingredient. That amount is then divided by a safety factor (usually 100) to determine the ADI (Renwick 1991). The ADI is a conservative number that the vast majority of people will not reach.

WHAT IS GRAS?

Food ingredients permitted for use in the U.S. fall into one of two categories: food additives (which require review prior to approval from the FDA) or Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredients. Whether GRAS or a food additive, food ingredients must be safe and must meet the same high food safety standards. To be considered GRAS, an ingredient must meet one of the following two conditions: 1) A history of safe use has been established and a significant number of people consumed the ingredient prior to the enactment of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1958; or 2) Scientific data and information about the safety and use of the ingredient are widely known and publicly available in scientific articles, position papers, etc., with consensus among scientific experts that the ingredient is safe for its intended use.

WILL MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS HELP ME LOSE OR MAINTAIN MY WEIGHT?

Currently, no research has examined how monk fruit sweeteners affect weight. However, there is substantial evidence that substituting foods and beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners for their full-sugar counterparts can play a role in weight loss or weight management. In a survey of members of the National Weight Control Registry, the largest study of successful weight loss maintainers, over 50 percent of all respondents stated that they regularly consume low-calorie beverages, 78 percent of whom felt that doing so helped control their calorie intake (Catenacci 2014).

Data from randomized clinical trials, considered to be the gold standard for assessing causal effects, support that substituting low-calorie sweetener options for regular-calorie versions leads to modest weight loss (Miller 2014, Rogers 2016). For example, in one study, over 300 participants were assigned to consume either water or low-calorie sweetened beverages for one year as part of a weight loss program. Those who were assigned to the low-calorie sweetener group lost 6.21 kg on average, compared to those in the water group, who lost 2.45 kg (Peters 2016). However, clinical trials on the effect of monk fruit sweeteners on body weight have not yet been published.

Some observational studies have demonstrated an association between low-calorie sweeteners and increased weight and waist circumference (Fowler 2016). Observational studies, which examine the relationship between an exposure (such as intake of monk fruit sweeteners) and an outcome (such as body weight or a health condition), are not able to establish cause and effect. This is because they are not randomized, so they cannot control for all of the other exposures or factors that may be causing or influencing the results. For example, one hypothesis is that people may compensate for “calorie-free” choices by eating or drinking more calories in other food choices or future meals (Mattes 2009). Think of a person who may justify ordering dessert at a restaurant because they had a diet soda with their meal: the extra calories from the dessert will be greater than the calories saved by ordering the diet beverage. These additional calories may contribute to weight gain or prevent further weight loss. It has also been suggested that people who are already overweight or obese may begin to choose low-calorie sweetened foods and beverages as one method for losing weight (Drewnowski 2016). This makes it difficult to assume that the use of a low-calorie sweetener can be the cause of weight gain but it may reflect how low-calories sweeteners are typically used in the diet. RCTs may, therefore, represent the efficacy of low- calories sweeteners while observational studies may be reflecting their real-world effectiveness. Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses (a scientific approach that combines findings from many studies into one powerful analysis) have concluded that, overall, findings from observational studies showed no association between low-calorie sweetener intake and body weight, and a small positive association with body mass index (BMI) (Miller 2014, Rogers 2016).

It is important to note that losing and maintaining one’s weight often require multiple simultaneous approaches. Making a single change, such as substituting foods and beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners for full-calorie, sugar-containing products is just one approach. Lifestyle and behavior practices like reducing total calorie intake, eating a healthful diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and maintaining social support networks are all important factors in achieving weight-loss and weight-maintenance goals.

EMERGING RESEARCH: CAN MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS MAKE ME HUNGRIER?

Highly palatable foods activate brain regions of reward and pleasure. This positive association has been hypothesized to enhance appetite, and if left unchecked, the resulting increase in food intake may contribute to overweight and obesity (Singh 2014). Substituting full-calorie and sugar-containing foods with their counterparts made with low-calorie sweeteners has exhibited a similar effect on reward pathways, but without contributing additional calories. No research has been published on the specific effects of monk fruit sweeteners on appetite and satiety, though one small study demonstrated that total daily energy intake did not differ between people consuming monk fruit sweeteners and those consuming sugar (Tey 2017a).

Some have expressed concern that activating reward pathways without delivering sugar to the body may have unintended consequences, and the role that low-calorie sweeteners have on appetite and food cravings is a developing area of research. As noted in recent reviews (Fowler 2016, Sylvetsky & Rother 2018), some research in animal models has demonstrated changes in food intake and appetite-related hormones after consuming low-calorie sweeteners. And yet, similar effects have not been seen in humans. To date there is no strong evidence that low-calorie sweeteners enhance appetite or cravings in humans (Rogers 2017), and some randomized trials have demonstrated the opposite effect – including a decrease in hunger (Peters 2016) and reduced dessert intake compared to those who drank water (Piernas 2013). There is no research on monk fruit’s relationship to appetite or cravings.

These discrepancies underscore an area in which animals and humans are inherently different as research subjects. In humans, the link between physiology, psychology, personal experiences and food is unmistakably complex, and the translation of animal research to this area of study should be viewed with caution.

DO MONK FRUIT SWEETENERS AFFECT BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL?

Foods and beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners are frequently recommended to people with diabetes as an alternative to sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. Research has shown that monk fruit sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels in humans (Tey 2017a, Tey 2017b) and a recent consensus statement by experts in nutrition, medicine, physical activity and public health concluded that the use of low-calorie sweeteners in diabetes management may contribute to better glycemic control (Serra-Majem 2018).

Many medical, nutrition and public health organizations around the world, backed by a large body of evidence, support the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners in people with diabetes. These individuals, or those who are at risk for developing diabetes, should be mindful of food and beverage intake from all sources, including those containing low-calorie sweeteners and sugars. It is important to discuss nutrition with a doctor or registered dietitian and to eat a healthful, balanced diet to keep blood sugar levels under control.

A few observational studies have demonstrated an association between low-calorie sweetener consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes (Sakurai 2014, Imamura 2015) but these studies are not able to directly link cause and effect and as with the studies on body weight and obesity, they are at risk of confounding. Given that overweight and obese individuals tend to consume more low-calorie sweetened beverages as compared to lean individuals (Bleich 2014), this is a critical omission. It is also important to note that none of these observational studies included monk fruit and therefore, no evidence of an association between monk fruit consumption and type 2 diabetes has been described.

EMERGING RESEARCH: WHAT ABOUT THE MICROBIOME?

The microbes living in our intestinal tract have become recognized as potentially significant contributors to our health, though research on the gut microbiome is still in its infancy. Despite the involvement of the gut microbiota in the metabolism of monk fruit’s mogrosides, to date there is no evidence that monk fruit sweeteners meaningfully impact the composition or function of the gut microbiome. However, randomized clinical trials have not yet been conducted in humans. There are significant differences between the microbiome profiles from one person to another and research has shown that the gut microbiome changes in response to normal changes in the diet (David 2014). A great deal of research is still needed to identify a microbiome profile and degree of diversity considered to be “optimal” in populations and in individuals.

WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?

All types of foods and beverages can have a place in our diets, including those made with monk fruit sweeteners. Monk fruit sweeteners have been considered GRAS in the United States since 2010 and their safety has been acknowledged by many international health agencies.

Since monk fruit sweeteners are relatively new to the food supply, their impact on, and association with, chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes has not been well studied. However, they have been safely used for centuries in Asian cultures and have not demonstrated any side effects, even after very high amounts have been consumed. Small randomized trials have shown that monk fruit sweeteners do not negatively impact blood sugar or insulin levels. Research continues on emerging issues like the effect of low-calorie sweeteners on the gut microbiome.

Adopting a healthful, active lifestyle that is tailored to personal goals and priorities is vital to supporting one’s wellbeing. Choosing foods and beverages sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners such as monk fruit may be one tool to help control sugar intake and keep calories in check, which are important components of maintaining a healthy body weight, and reducing risk for diet-related disease.

What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener and Is It a Healthy Option?

You’re probably super familiar with Stevia, the popular sugar substitute derived from the Stevia plant. but what about monk fruit extract, another calorie-free sweetener that’s become trendy among health-conscious eaters over the last few years?

According to the FDA, monk fruit extract can taste up to 250 times sweeter than standard table sugar—thanks to chemical compounds called mogrosides, which give the fruit its characteristic sweetness. But where does monk fruit come from, and is this sweetener actually good for you? We reached out to a nutritionist for the facts.

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Benefits of monk fruit extract

Monk fruit extract comes from monk fruit, or luo han guo, a melon-like fruit that grows on a vine and is native to parts of China and Thailand. “The sweetener is made by juicing the fruit and processing it into crystal form,” explains Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, New York City–based nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color. (Monk fruit extract is also made into a liquid.)

With zero calories, the FDA-approved extract doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like standard table sugar does. That makes it a great alternative for diabetics, according to Largeman-Roth.

Drawbacks of monk fruit extract

Monk fruit extract may be considered “natural,” but that doesn’t mean it’s unprocessed or 100% pure. “Monk fruit is often combined with other sweeteners, or with sugar and molasses,” notes Largeman-Roth. The problem? If it’s combined with sugar, it’s no longer calorie-free.

Yet combining monk fruit extract with another non-nutritive (in other words, zero-calorie) sweetener, like the popular sugar alcohol erythritol, isn’t ideal either. “Erythritol can cause gastrointestinal issues like gas and diarrhea, especially among people with IBS,” says Largeman-Roth.

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Research also suggests that sweetening food and drinks can actually intensify sugar cravings, not satisfy them. “My overall philosophy on sweeteners is that Americans are used to things tasting incredibly sweet, so I caution against overuse of artificial and naturally derived but calorie-free sweeteners that can taste hundreds of times sweeter than sugar,” says Largeman-Roth.

RELATED: 5 All-Natural Sweeteners That Are (Somewhat) Healthier Than Sugar

Where to buy monk fruit extract

Monk fruit extract is available in retail stores and online. For discounted Lakanto monkfruit sweetener, head to Thrive Market’s website ($6; thrivemarket.com). Monk Fruit in the Raw is available at Walmart ($7; walmart.com) and Amazon ($7; amazon.com).

How to use monk fruit extract

Like other sweeteners, monk fruit extract can be added to foods or drinks to enhance sweetness without excess calories. Be sure to use it sparingly. “You can add monk fruit extract to beverages, oatmeal, baked goods, and other things that you’d like to taste sweeter,” says Largeman-Roth. “Just remember that you only need to use a tiny amount because it tastes so much sweeter than sugar.”

With sugar intake at an all-time high, finding healthier, sweet alternatives has been a priority for many people. The problem is, sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners tend to be filled with other harmful chemicals and ingredients, and some even contain calories and affect blood sugar levels, despite what many people believe. Enter monk fruit.

Monk fruit sweetener has been celebrated as a revolutionary way to sweeten foods and drinks without the harmful effects of traditional sugar and certain sugar substitutes.

What are the health benefits of monk fruit? It contains compounds that, when extracted, are an estimated 200–300 times sweeter than regular cane sugar but with no calories and no effect on blood sugar.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not!

This fruit has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and after many years of only being available overseas, it’s recently become easier to find in grocery stores in the U.S. and elsewhere.

What Is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit (species name Momordica grosvenori) is also called luo han guo. This small, green fruit is a member of the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) plant family.

It was was named after monks that harvested the fruit in southern Chinese mountains as early as the 13th century.

Rarely found in the wild, monk fruits were originally grown in regions including the Guangxi and Guangdong Mountains in China. The Chinese government has actually a ban on monk fruit and its genetic material, stopping it from leaving the country.

Therefore the fruit must be grown and manufactured in China. This, combined with the complicated process of extraction, makes monk fruit products expensive to create.

Is monk fruit good for you? It has long been regarded as the “longevity fruit” thanks to its high antioxidant levels and anti-inflammatory effects.

Throughout history, it was used medicinally as an expectorant, cough remedy, treatment for constipation and as a remedy for clearing heat/fevers from the body.

Today, experts consider sweet extracts of natural plants, such as stevia and monk fruit, to be attractive alternatives to sugar.

A 2019 report published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Mineral Research Consumption explains:

Unfortunately substituting sugar with the currently available artificial sweeteners does not appear to have favorable clinical effects. Given the health-related concerns with the currently available sweeteners such as increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes there is renewed interest in identifying a safe and palatable sweetener.

Nutrition Facts

Monk fruit sweeteners come in several forms: liquid extract, powder and granules (like cane sugar).

Monk fruit, technically speaking, contains a very small amount of calories and carbohydrates, just like other fruits and vegetables. However, it’s not commonly consumed fresh (since the fruit begins to taste rotten quickly after harvesting), and when dried its sugars break down.

When eaten fresh, monk fruit has about 25 percent to 38 percent carbohydrates, as well as some vitamin C.

Because of its short shelf life after being harvested, the only way to enjoy fresh monk fruit is to visit the Asian regions. This is why it’s often dried and processed.

After drying, the trace amounts of fructose, glucose and other components are considered insignificant, so it’s typically counted as a zero-calorie food.

What does monk fruit taste like, and why is it so sweet?

Many users of monk fruit sweeteners say the taste is pleasant and that there’s little to no bitter aftertaste, unlike some other sugar substitutes.

It’s not sweet due to natural sugars like most fruits. It contains powerful antioxidants called mogrosides, which are metabolized differently by the body than natural sugars.

That’s why, despite their very sweet taste, these fruits virtually contain no calories and have no effect on blood sugar.

Mogrosides provide varying levels of sweetness — the type known as mogrosides-V being the highest and also the one associated with the most health benefits. Some products produced with monk fruit may be intensely sweet but can be cut down and used in moderation.

Benefits

1. Contains Antioxidants that Fight Free Radicals

Monk fruit’s mogrosides, the compounds that give it its intense sweetness, are also powerful antioxidants. Oxidative stress plays a part in many diseases and disorders, and choosing high-antioxidant foods is the key to reducing free radical damage in the body.

Studies have shown that mogrosides “significantly inhibited reactive oxygen species and DNA oxidative damage.” The fact that the same monk fruit ingredients that provide antioxidants also provide a no-calorie sweetener makes it nothing less than a superfood.

2. May Help Lower Risk of Obesity and Diabetes

It’s estimated Americans consume 130 pounds of sugar per year, as opposed to our ancestors in the early 1800s who averaged about 10 pounds. This surge in sugar intake has ballooned obesity rates, as well as cases of diabetes.

A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Obesity states, “Substituting sweeteners with non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) may aid in glycaemic control and body weight management.” In this study, non-nutritive sweeteners included aspartame, monk fruit and stevia, which were found to contribute substantially less to total daily energy intake, postprandial glucose and insulin release compared with sucrose-sweetened beverages.

Monk fruit may improve insulin response and does not affect blood sugar levels the way natural sugars do, according to research studies. This means it can provide the sweet flavor we strongly crave without the damaging side effects.

Research indicates that using monk fruit sweetener may help those already suffering from obesity and diabetes from furthering their condition. Another benefit compared to other sweeteners is that the sweetener is extracted from non-GMO fruit, unlike table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

3. Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Ancient Chinese usage of this fruit included drinking tea made from the boiled fruit to cool the body from ailments, including fever and heat stroke. It was also used to soothe a sore throat.

This method works because of monk fruit’s mogrosides, which have natural anti-inflammatory effects.

4. May Help Fight Development of Cancer

There’s evidence suggesting that the seeds and extract taken from this fruit have anti-carcinogenic effects. Monk fruit extract has displayed an ability to inhibit skin and breast tumor growth and to provide proteins that have anticancer abilities.

There is irony in the fact that other sweeteners are shown to increase the risk of cancer, while monk fruit sweetener seems to have the power to reduce it.

5. May Help Combat Infections

When treating bacterial infections, antibiotics are widely overused. Natural antimicrobial agents are much better options to fight off infections to slow the ongoing surge of antibiotic resistance.

Monk fruit has shown the ability to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, specifically oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontal disease.

These studies also show the fruit’s ability to fight some forms of candida symptoms and overgrowth, like oral thrush, which when left untreated can affect many other body systems.

6. Fights Fatigue

In a study on mice, monk fruit extracts were successful in decreasing fatigue in exercising mice. The study was able to reproduce the results and prove that mice given the extract had extended exercise times.

This study provides evidence as to why monk fruit has long been referred to as the “longevity fruit.”

7. Appropriate for Diabetic and Low-Glycemic Diets

This fruit was used as an antidiabetic by the Chinese for centuries. Aside from being a proven antihyperglycemic (which helps bring down the blood glucose levels in the body), animal studies have also shown targeted antioxidant abilities toward pancreatic cells, allowing better insulin secretion in the body.

The antidiabetic abilities of the monk fruit are associated with its high levels of mogrosides. Better insulin secretion is a major part of improving diabetic patients’ health, and monk fruit has even shown in animal studies to potentially reduce kidney damage and other diabetes-related issues.

As a sweetener with a low glycemic index, it’s also a way for those struggling with diabetes to be able to enjoy a sweet flavor without the concern of affecting or worsening their diabetic condition. For this same reason, monk fruit is a good choice for people following the keto diet or other low-carb diets.

8. Works as a Natural Antihistamine

Monk fruit extract, when used repeatedly, has shown an ability to fight allergic reactions as well.

In a study with mice, monk fruit was administered repeatedly to mice exhibiting nasal rubbing and scratching due to histamines. The study showed that “both the extract and glycoside inhibited the histamine release” in the test subjects.

Downsides, Risks and Side Effects

What are the side effects of monk fruit? It’s generally considered to be very safe, since there have been very few reported side effects or negative reactions.

It appears to be safe for adults, children and pregnant/nursing women to consume, based on available research and the fact that it’s been consumed for centuries in Asia.

Unlike some other sweeteners, it’s unlikely to cause diarrhea or bloating when consumed in moderate amounts.

As a sugar substitute it was approved for use by the FDA in 2010 and is considered “generally safe for consumption.” That said, its approval was pretty recent, so there are no long-term studies available to test monk fruit side effects over time, meaning it’s best to exercise care when consuming it in large amounts.

Monk Fruit vs. Stevia

In the United States, the FDA allows any food/beverage that has less than 5 calories per serving to be labeled as “calorie-free” or “zero calorie.” Both monk fruit and stevia sweeteners fall into this category.

This makes both products good options if you’re watching your weight or blood sugar levels.

Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni), a plant that’s native to South America, is grown to produce stevia extract, another popular sweetener and sugar sub.

Stevia is considered a “high intensity sweetener,” since steviol glycosides that are extracted from the stevia plant are around 200–400 times sweeter than cane sugar. A specific glycoside found in stevia plants called rebaudioside A (Reb A) is used in most commercially available product.

In extract/powder form, stevia doesn’t impact blood sugar levels and is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA. However, at this time the FDA still hasn’t given whole leaf stevia an official GRAS label since more research is required.

Both monk fruit and stevia are heat-stable, meaning you cook and bake with them up to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit without altering their taste. Some people find that stevia has a bit of an after taste and doesn’t mimic the taste of cane sugar as closely as monk fruit does.

How to Choose the Right Sweetener (Plus Recipes)

What’s the best monk fruit sweetener to purchase? Because of its short shelf life, the only way to try monk fruit fresh would be to travel to Southeast Asia and buy one fresh off the vine, which obviously is unrealistic for many people.

The next best way to try monk fruit extract or monk fruit powder is to purchase it in dried form.

Wondering where to buy monk fruit? Dried monk fruit can be found online (such as on Amazon) and at many Chinese markets.

You can use the dried fruit in soups and teas.

You can also make your own monk fruit sugar substitute by creating an extract (try following one of the Liquid Stevia Extract recipes here).

You can choose to make it using alcohol, pure water or glycerin, or a combination of the three. Making your own solution at home ensures you know what ingredients are used and the quality of ingredients.

Monk fruit extract is manufactured in a number of different ways. Most commonly, the fresh fruit is harvested and the juice is combined with a hot water infusion, filtered and then dried to create a powdered extract.

Some types may be labeled as “monk fruit in the raw” if they don’t contain other ingredients.

The sweetness is contained in the mogrosides, and depending on the manufacturer, the percentage of the compound varies, which means different products will have different sweetness levels.

Beware of types that include added ingredients like molasses and a sugar alcohol called erythritol, which may cause digestive issues among some people.

Monk Fruit Recipes:

  • 6 Great Recipes Using Monk Fruit in the Raw: This includes New York Cheesecake, Coconut Meringue Cookies and more.
  • Raw Green Goddess Smoothie
  • Stuffed Red Pepper Rolls

Other Healthy Alternative Sweeteners:

Not a fan of monk fruit’s taste? You may want to try using other sweeteners, such as stevia or xylitol instead. If you don’t mind consuming actual sugar and calories, other options include raw honey, molasses and real maple syrup.

Use these in foods such as oatmeal, baked goods, coffee and tea to help cut down on your processed sugar intake.

Final Thoughts

  • What is monk fruit? It’s a sugar substitute that contains compounds that taste very sweet when extracted.
  • These compounds are 300–400 times sweeter than sugar but have no calories and no effect on blood sugar.
  • This fruit also supplies powerful antioxidants called mogrosides, which are metabolized differently by the body than natural sugars.
  • Monk fruit benefits may include fighting free radicals, lowering risk of obesity and diabetes, acting an an anti-inflammatory and coolant, helping to treat and prevent cancer, combating infections, fighting fatigue, and working as a natural antihistamine.

Have you heard of monk fruit?

If you’re someone who likes to keep updated on the latest health trends, odds are that you have. The Dr. Oz Show and The Food Network have both recommended the fruit, while famous nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin uses monk fruit in her diet plan. But what’s the big deal about it, and what makes it different than any other fruit?

The reality is that monk fruit isn’t just a trend. Studies show that this superfood has a ton of upsides and not a single downside. Here’s the skinny on this trending food that’s making a name for itself in households everywhere.

What is monk fruit?

Monk fruit, also known as “Buddha fruit,” and “luo han guo,” is native to China, getting its name from the monks who were the only ones who knew how to cultivate it due to its strange and difficult growing conditions. Monk fruits are grown mainly in the steep mountains of Guilin, as they can be in the shade and mist that protects them from the sun, but still in a warm climate. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years as a treatment for everything from sore throats to constipation.

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The monk fruit belongs to the gourd family and, while the exterior is hard and covered with hairs, the inside is delightfully sweet and edible. It was only scientifically recorded in the 1930s and recently started to become popular in kitchens today.

Why is monk fruit so popular?

There’s good reason why monk fruit has been all the buzz recently. This new superfood is mainly used as a sweetener, which is carefully extracted through a four-step process: it’s crushed to release the juices, which are then infused with water, which are then concentrated and dried to be used in baking and cooking, as well as in beverages.

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There are plenty of natural sweeteners out there, but monk fruit stands out among the rest due to its numerous health benefits.

Health Benefits of Monk Fruit

1) Sweeter than other sweeteners—and even sugar

Monk fruits are so wonderfully sweet because they contain mogrosides, an active sweetener compound. According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), these mogrosides are a natural sweetener “on the horizon” as they have no calories but are still intensely sweet. In fact, monk fruit is estimated to be approximately 250 times as sweet as sugar by weight.

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2) Prevents…well, pretty much everything

Forget apples—a monk fruit a day might keep the doctor away. The exotic fruit combats lots of ailments. Studies have shown that they “exhibits antidiabetic, anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiallergic effects.”

3) No bitter aftertaste

Many avoid alternatives to sugar because even if they initially taste good, the aftertaste is unpleasant. The CSPI adds that monk fruit is wonderfully sweet the whole way through, without the added bitterness that many other sweeteners have.

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4) All-natural

Monk fruit is an all-natural sweetener, so you don’t have to worry about unhealthy chemicals or preservatives. However, watch out for brand-name sweeteners, such as Nectresse, which contain other ingredients—and taste-testers could certainly tell.

5) Low in calories

Get the “skinny” on monk fruit–this magical fruit is healthy for your waistline as well. It has very few calories, making it a healthy alternative to sugar.

Related Article: 7 Steps to Fat Loss

What would I use monk fruit in?

Like other sweeteners, monk fruit sweetener can be used in place of sugar in pretty much any case. Use it to make Mom’s cookie recipe a little healthier, or stir it into your tea for a healthy fall treat. Keep in mind that it’s also marketed as “Lo Han sweetener” after its Chinese name.

The Takeaway

There’s a reason why health and wellness shows and magazines have been raving about this new superfood. Monk fruit isn’t just a health fad, but will likely remain regarded as one of the healthiest fruits out there and one of the best alternative sweeteners to add to your diet.

Replace sugar or your current sweetener with the all-natural monk fruit, and you’ll take away calories and that nasty bitter aftertaste while adding intensity, antioxidants, and vitamins—all while fighting diseases like cancer and diabetes.

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Sammy Nickalls is the Content Manager at Inspiyr.com. She is an avid health nut and a lover of all things avocado. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Photo by -AroFarMeR-

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Why You Should Ditch Sugar for Monk Fruit Sweetener

A sweet tooth is a common problem in the United States with each American consuming an estimated 130 pounds of sugar per year (Walton, 2012). This has gradually risen over the past few decades with the addition of sugars to many processed foods. Unfortunately, all of that added sugar is taking a toll on our collective health. Eating too much sugar is associated with obesity, elevated triglycerides, higher diabetes risk, oral health problems, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Finding alternatives to added sugar can help you stay healthy and fit. Now, monk fruit sweetener is taking the world by storm as one of the most buzzed about sugar substitutes on the market.

What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener?

As its name suggests, monk fruit sweetener comes from the monk fruit tree. This tree, also known as Siraitia grosvenorii or luo han guo, is native to northern Thailand and southern China. Here, the tree grows on the steep slopes of forested mountains. It is thought that monk fruit was first cultivated by Buddhist monks more than 800 years ago, which is where it got its name (MonkFruit, 2016).

The fruit of the tree has long been recognized for its intensely sweet properties. It is 20 times sweeter than other fruit juices and nearly 300 times sweeter than table sugar (MonkFruit, 2016). Monk fruit is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for a sore throat or a cold. It has also been used as a low-calorie sweetener for decades in Asia, although it is just beginning to gain global popularity for this purpose.

The monk fruit looks like a small melon and is full of compounds known as mogrosides. These mogrosides are naturally occurring antioxidants, meaning that they fight against oxidative damage in the cell. Mogrosides also have a sweet property, making monk fruit powder a popular sweetener.

How Monk Fruit Sweetener Can Help You Ditch Your Sugar Habit

One of the problems with added sugar is that it causes your blood sugar levels to spike. Over time, this can cause your cells to become resistant to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar. A sweetener like luo han guo does not have the same effect on your blood sugar levels. Because monk fruit is not full of glucose, the primary sugar our body uses, it has less of an effect on blood sugar than traditional sweeteners (Dharmananda, n.d.). This means that monk fruit sweetener is appropriate for diabetics.

Monk fruit sweetener also has a high antioxidant content and may have anti-inflammatory benefits, although more scientific research is needed to determine the health benefits of monk fruit powder.

Ways to Incorporate Monk Fruit Sweetener into Your Diet

When purchasing monk fruit powder, look for powder that is at least 80% pure extract, which means that it contains a high proportion of the mogrosides that give it sweetness and antioxidant-boosting power. Monk fruit powder is extremely potent, with a small spoonful providing an equivalent amount of sweetness as a cup of sugar.

There are many ways to use monk fruit powder to replace table sugar in your diet. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. Consider the following uses for luo han guo (Dharmananda, n.d.):

  • Coffee or tea sweetener. Rather than stirring a spoonful of honey or sugar into your tea, add a small sprinkle of monk fruit sweetener.
  • Breakfast sweetener. Craving an extra boost of sweetness on your morning oatmeal or yogurt? Stirring monk fruit sweetener into your morning meals feels indulgent but doesn’t pack on the excess sugar.
  • Baking sugar substitute. Baking with monk fruit powder requires a bit of trial and error, as the volume of monk fruit sweetener needed is so much smaller than table sugar. Begin by cutting the sugar quantity in half and adding an equivalent amount of monk fruit sweetener (by sweetness, not by volume — remember that 1 tsp monk fruit sweetener equals 1 cup of sugar).
  • Make a homemade soda substitute. If you’re craving soda but can’t stomach the amount of added sugar, stir a small spoonful of monk fruit powder into a glass of carbonated water. You’ll get the same sweet boost without the excess sugar.
  • Blended into a smoothie. Your favorite smoothie will taste that much better with a sprinkling of monk fruit sweetener. Blend the sweetener with your favorite fruits, yogurt, and ice for a refreshing — and healthy — drink.

Just when you thought you’d tried all the sugar-free natural sweeteners around, along comes a brand-new one: monk fruit! And this may be the best yet.

Although fairly new to the Western market, monk fruit extract has been used as both a sweetener and medicine for centuries. Also known as luo han guo, monk fruit is named for the monks who grew it in southern Chinese mountains hundreds of years ago. It’s part of the gourd family and grows on a vine, but doesn’t usually grow wild.

Monk fruit extract contains some incredible compounds that are 300-400 times sweeter than cane sugar. But, and here’s the real kicker, it’s virtually calorie-free. That means it won’t affect blood sugar levels, and it won’t rot your teeth.

Because monk fruit has a rather short shelf life after being harvested – and an unpleasant rotten taste – it’s rarely eaten fresh. Monk fruit sweetener, on the other hand, is very pleasant and lacks the aftertaste that some other natural sweeteners have.

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Why Monk Fruit Is Suitable For The Candida Diet

Monk fruit’s sweet taste is not actually from its sugars but from its antioxidant content! These antioxidants – known as mogrosides – aren’t metabolized by the body in the same way as natural sugar, so they’re not used for energy. The trace amounts of natural sugars in monk fruit – fructose, glucose and other components – are insignificant as a calorie source. This basically means you get the benefits of a sweet taste but in a form that the body doesn’t recognize as calories.

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More importantly, the lack of sugars in monk fruit means there’s nothing to feed a Candida overgrowth or indeed any other form of gut dysbiosis. This makes monk fruit a fantastic low-carb sweetener for satisfying those sugar cravings.

There’s yet another reason for using monk fruit as your anti-Candida sweetener – it’s a proven antimicrobial. Similarly to xylitol, monk fruit has been shown to harbor special properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth. These are the type of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease. There is also some evidence that monk fruit may be effective in treating some forms of candida overgrowth such as oral thrush.

Benefits of Monk Fruit

Monk fruit isn’t just a tasty sugar-free sweetener. Here are some other benefits that you should be aware of.

  • It’s An Antioxidant
    Monk fruit harbors an array of health properties that can boost your body’s free-radical fighting powers. In fact, some cultures refer to it as the ‘longevity fruit’, due to its efficacy as an antioxidant. Studies have shown that mogrosides can significantly block harmful reactive oxygen species and prevent DNA oxidative damage. Being both a calorie-free sweetener AND an antioxidant makes monk fruit something of a superfood!
  • It Relieves Heat-Aggravated Conditions
    Monk fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular remedy in traditional medicine to relieve the body of heat-related conditions. Chinese herbalists will make tea from boiled monk fruit to help cool the body from ailments such as fever or sunburn.
  • It Can Help Manage Diabetes
    As an antihyperglycemic, monk fruit has been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels in the body. It’s also believed that its antioxidant compounds can help pancreatic cells function more efficiently, improving insulin secretion. Better insulin secretion is a major part of improving diabetic patients’ health, and monk fruit has even shown results in reducing kidney damage and other diabetes-related issues.
  • It Can Clear The Respiratory Tract
    Monk fruit’s expectorant properties make it useful for respiratory ills such as coughs and colds. It’s used to clear away the inflammation to relieve sore throat, and break up phlegm in the throat and lungs. In Chinese medicine, monk fruit’s indications are referred to as “phlegm-fire cough”, sore throat, tonsillitis, acute gastritis, and constipation.

How Does Monk Fruit Compare To Xylitol, Stevia and Erythritol?

When it comes to natural sweeteners, we’re spoiled for choice these days. Xylitol, stevia, and erythritol all have their benefits and uses.

These are all great options for your Candida diet, or in fact any low-sugar eating plan. However, unlike some sugar alcohols, monk fruit doesn’t cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and diarrhea. It also doesn’t have the intensely sweet after-taste that some people dislike about stevia.

If you’ve tried these other sweeteners and found that they’re not for you, monk fruit may be the answer.

What To Look For When Buying Monk Fruit Extract

Monk fruit extract or sweetener can be purchased online or in health food stores. Note that the sweetness depends on the concentration of the extract and the number of mogrosides it contains. These mogrosides are ranked from 1-5 in terms of their sweetness. Number 5 is the sweetest, and conveys the most health benefits.

Of course, certain manufacturers may modify the sweetness of a product by adding other ingredients. When purchasing monk fruit sweeteners, check the ingredients listing for additives. Some commercial products may blend monk fruit with dextrose, molasses and/or sugar alcohols to balance the sweetness. Check the label and be aware of what you’re purchasing.

How To Use Monk Fruit

As an extract, monk fruit can be added to beverages, baking and desserts. Only a very small amount is required, as the sweetness is so powerful!

Dried monk fruit may also be available at Asian supermarkets, and be used in soups and teas. Make a monk fruit tea by simmering around 9-15g of dried monk fruit in boiling water.

Making monk fruit extract involves harvesting the fresh fruit and infusing it with the juice in a hot water infusion. It is then filtered and dried, and the extract is ground to a powder.

Does Monk Fruit Sweetener Make Sense For Your Diet?

Natural sweeteners such as monk fruit provide the sweet taste that we all crave, yet they have virtually no effect on your blood sugar. It’s no secret that most of us consume far too much sugar – and that this is contributing to a huge increase in gut disorders like Candida overgrowth, obesity, and diabetes.

Monk fruit is a healthy, natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Some people may find it even better than sugar alcohols, which can cause occasional digestive problems. The only tricky part is finding it: monk fruit extract is not yet as readily available as other sweeteners such as stevia, xylitol and erythritol.

If you’re not sure how to eat on the Candida diet, don’t worry! Dr Eric Wood and I have put together a comprehensive guide to the dietary and lifestyle changes that you need to make to restore your gut health and energy levels. Check it out here.

Filed under: Diet Tips

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  1. Faye Lambert says:

    Where I can I purchase Monk Fruit Sweetener?

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      You can find them online at Amazon, or in your local health food store. The pure monk fruit extracts are best, but they are incredibly sweet and you only need a tiny amount. Other versions include some erythritol to bulk it up and make it a 1-for-1 substitute for sugar.

  2. Phyllis Hoffman says:

    I just made microwaved chocolate fudge with monk fruit sugar and, being a fudgaholic, I am ecstatic!!!

Is monk fruit healthy?

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