Is Monk Fruit A Healthy Alternative Sweetener?

Monk fruit has been eaten and used medicinally in China for thousands of years, but monk fruit has gained recent attention as a possible alternative to artificial sweeteners.

Processed sugars have been linked to the development of many different health conditions, so food manufacturers have been searching for healthier alternatives for decades. This has led to the creation of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, which are proven to have health hazards of their own.

Just when it was looking like you could never enjoy a sweet treat again, monk fruit offers a new alternative to sweeteners. Read on to find out how this obscure fruit could be a game-changer for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Related: How Bitter Foods Can Help Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet

WHAT IS MONK FRUIT?

Also known as luo han guo, monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) is native to Thailand and China. It’s a small fruit related to squash and melons that grows on a vine. Monk fruit plants are rare in the wild, and they’re only cultivated in a small area of southern China that has ideal growing conditions for the vines.

Monk fruit is said to have gotten its name from a group of Buddhist monks who first spread knowledge of the fruit in southern China. The sweet taste of monk fruit comes from chemical compounds known as mogrosides, which are estimated to be 300 times as sweet as sugar by weight.

Mogrosides make fresh monk fruit sweet, but the soft fruits cannot be stored as they quickly start to ferment. They also contain many other unpleasant flavors that would not make them a suitable food sweetener.

Traditionally, the ripe fruits are dried for storage and later use. The drying process naturally removes most of the unpleasant flavors, but the dried fruits also develop a bitter taste, so they’re usually only eaten medicinally or as a tea.

To deal with this issue, Proctor and Gamble was the first to develop a process to remove the undesired flavors from ripe monk fruit and produce a concentrated fruit juice or puree that can be used in food manufacturing. They first created this process in 1995, and since then a few other companies have developed similar ways to make monk fruit extracts to use for sweetening food.

IS MONK FRUIT GOOD FOR YOU?

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long used monk fruit to help treat colds, sore throat and lung congestion. It’s also said to enhance longevity.

While modern science has limited research on these uses, there are some promising initial findings about monk fruit extract.

1. Low Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks a carbohydrate-containing food by how much it raises your blood sugar levels after you eat it. Foods with a high GI, such as white sugar, will raise your blood sugar quickly. And eating high-GI foods frequently increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Monk fruit extract contains no carbohydrates, so its glycemic index is very low. This may be one reason why it’s been shown to have antidiabetic properties in animal studies.

2. High in Antioxidants

Your body naturally produces free radicals in response to stress, but too many free radicals in your system can cause serious damage to your cells and tissues. Antioxidants help protect your body against stress by combating free radicals and their damage.

The mogrosides found in monk fruit have significant antioxidant properties. In particular, they have been found to help protect the pancreas against free radical damage. This includes stress on the pancreas from excessive exposure to glucose and fatty acids, which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Mogrosides are shown to help restore the pancreas’s normal insulin secretion functions, and potentially even reverse damage already done by free radicals. Researchers suggest this could help delay the progression of type 2 diabetes.

3. Zero Calories

In addition to having no carbohydrates, monk fruit extract also has no calories. Most sugars added to foods, such as refined sugar, fruit juices or corn syrup, are very high-calorie. This can lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. Even the artificial sweetener aspartame has been linked to weight gain.

Monk fruit extract is a potentially safe alternative sweetener that will actually help keep weight off.

4. Antibacterial Agents

A 2009 study looked at monk fruit extract’s effect on oral bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, which is known to promote tooth decay. It was found that certain compounds in the extract were able to inhibit bacterial growth.

This is promising news because monk fruit extract is now being used as an alternative sweetener in drinks.

5. Generally Regarded as Safe

Short-term studies have shown no adverse effects from consuming monk fruit extract. No long-term studies have been done yet, but the FDA approved monk fruit extract for use in 2009, and determined that it was “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS).

Considering the proven benefits of monk fruit extract so far, and the fact it has no calories, carbohydrates, sodium or fat, this is an alternative sweetener you may want to try.

Monk fruit extract is used in some products, and it’s also available as a sweetener on its own. Although, always read the label before buying a monk fruit extract sweetener because some of them have added ingredients such as dextrose, erythritol or molasses.

And keep in mind that monk fruit extract has a somewhat different taste than regular sugar, so you’ll have to sample it to see if you like it or not.

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69 comments

Marie W
Marie W9 hours ago

Thanks for posting

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Frances G
Frances Gabout a month ago

Thank you

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Chad A
Chad A6 months ago

Thank you.

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Catrin S

Good to know, have never seen it in my grocery stores.

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Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis6 months ago

Thanks

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Elizabeth M
Past Member 6 months ago

cool many thanks.

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John W
John W6 months ago

Thanks

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Edgar Z
Edgar Zuim6 months ago

Interesting. Thanks.

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Roxana Saez
Roxana S6 months ago

TYFS

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Monica C
Monica Chongtham6 months ago

oh that's great to know thanks

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