Although most of us probably wouldn’t pick out a Monk Fruit Sweetener in the produce aisle, it’s such a healthy benefactor. And truth be told, it’s not likely to catch much of your attention. Especially, amidst other eye fronting and mouth-watering fruits too. Like the luscious lemons, colorful apples, and even the vibrancy look in oranges.
But, from the perspective of health-conscious foodies, sugar-free devotees, and those in the diabetes community, monk fruit is getting a great deal of attention. For instance, as people increasingly try and avoid sugar, alternative fruit sweeteners have become more popular. And one popular sweetener is monk fruit sweetener, also called monk fruit extract.
Monk fruit, or lo han guo, is a small green melon native to southern China and named after the monks who first cultivated it centuries ago. The health benefits of the fruit have been well-known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for decades. But, its sweet little secret is finally making it into the wellness mainstream.
For your information, the monk fruit sweetener has been around for decades but, has recently grown in popularity since it’s become more readily available. Then again, it’s a natural sweetener containing zero calories. Of course, with an average sweetness of 100–250 times than that of sugar. With this in mind, I will elaborate more on its health benefits and how the sweetener is made later in this article.
What is Monk Fruit?
Important to realize, Monk Fruit is also called luo han guo or swingle. And also, it looks like a small gourd, and it grows on a vine. Surprisingly, the monk fruit is native to regions of Southeast Asia. Including some parts of Thailand and China. Buddhist Monks in the 13th century were the first to cultivate the fruit, which is the reason for its name.
Traditionally, people used dried monk fruit in herbal medicines since fresh monk fruit spoils rather quickly. Today, monk fruit is most popular as a natural sweetener. The fruit’s extract contains substances called mogrosides, which are intensely sweet.
As people increasingly avoid sugar, alternative sweeteners have become more popular. One popular sweetener is monk fruit sweetener, also called monk fruit extract. Above all, it has been around for decades but has recently grown in popularity since it’s become more readily available.
Monk fruit contains natural sugars, mainly fructose and glucose. However, unlike in most fruits, the natural sugars in monk fruit aren’t responsible for its sweetness. Instead, it gets its intense
the sweetness from unique antioxidants called mogrosides.
Not to mention, it’s natural, contains zero calories and is 100–250 times sweeter than sugar. It is also thought to have antioxidant properties.
Monk Fruit Sweetener: Good or Bad?
What is a Monk Fruit Sweetener?
A Monk Fruit Sweetener is made from a Monk fruit (similar to stevia but doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste that stevia does) organic extract. The monk fruit is also known as luo han guo or “Buddha fruit.” It’s a small, round fruit grown in Southeast Asia. This fruit has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.
But, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t approve its use as a sweetener until 2010. The sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit and crushing it to collect the juice, which is then dried into a concentrated powder.
During processing, mogrosides are separated from the fresh-pressed juice. Therefore, monk fruit sweetener does not contain fructose or glucose. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, monk fruit is around 150–200 times sweeter than sugar.
Monk fruit sweeteners are marketed as granules, powders, and liquids. Some products may be easy to carry and use throughout the day.
Stevia vs Monk Fruit | Which is Better?
Both monk fruit and stevia extracts are considered high-intensity sweeteners. Monk fruit extracts have been reported to be 100-250 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose), while steviol glycosides purified from the leaves of the stevia plant are around 200-400 times sweeter than sugar.
Both monk fruit-derived low-calorie sweeteners and stevia extracts have been gaining popularity among health-conscious consumers. In particular, looking for more natural ways to sweeten their foods and drinks. While in the end, keeping their caloric intake at a healthy level. But, which one of these two sugar-free sweeteners is better?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the terms “calorie-free” and “zero calories” can be used in the labeling of food. Especially, that contains less than 5 calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving.
Purified stevia extracts and pure monk fruit powder are so intensely sweet that the amounts needed to sweeten a cup of tea or a specific dish are tiny. So to say, which is why these sugar-free sweeteners in their purest form can be considered calorie-free. Learn more!
What are the Benefits of a Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit sweetener has been claimed to aid weight loss. Since it contains zero calories, many people suggest that it can reduce your total calorie intake. Nevertheless, it’s relatively new to the market, and no studies have assessed its effects on weight.
However, studies on other low-calorie sweeteners indicate that it may lead to modest reductions in body weight. Also, studies report that replacing regular-calorie sweeteners with low-calorie versions can result in a modest weight loss of fewer than 2 pounds (0.9 kg).
One review found that people who consumed low-calorie sweeteners and drinks also tended to consume less added fat, sugar, alcohol, and other sources of empty calories. In another study, people who used stevia or aspartame rather than sucrose ate fewer calories. Particularly, without reporting any differences in hunger levels.
Used in very small doses to sweeten desserts, coffee, tea, and any baking recipe, it contains;
- 0 Calories
- 0 Carbs
- Great for Diabetics
- No impact on Glucose Levels
- Perfect for Keto Diet
- No Digestion Issues
- Sweeter than Sugar
Monk Fruit helps fight fatigue, treats diabetes, works as an anti-inflammatory, and also functions as a natural antihistamine. Below are 7 more illustrated benefits;
1. Decreases your Risks of Diabetes
The fruit was used as an anti-diabetic medication long before it was known as a low-calorie sweetener. Studies show it might help lower glucose levels and increase secrete insulin secretion.
This effect can increase insulin sensitivity, which both diabetic and healthy people need for normal metabolism.
2. May Relieve Allergy Symptoms
When you experience an allergic reaction, your body releases different chemicals into your system, one being histamine.
Histamine is responsible for allergy symptoms like coughing, itching, and inflammation. In one study conducted in mice, monk fruit extract was able to reduce histamine and asthmatic reactions.
3. It Helps Fight Infection
Monk fruit has anti-infection properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria, helping to prevent a sore throat and cough.
Studies have shown that monk fruit has the ability to fend off some symptoms of candida such as oral thrush (fungal infection).
4. It Has Anti-Cancer Properties
The antioxidants in monk fruit show promising cancer-preventing properties. One study found that a particular mogroside, mogroside V, has the ability to inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancer cells in mice.
Another study showed that the fruit had anticancer effects in colorectal and throat cancer.
5. It Helps Reduce Inflammation
Chronic Inflammation is a silent killer. It prevents your body from functioning and healing correctly, making all your health goals more difficult to accomplish.
Studies demonstrate that monk fruit contains anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to disease prevention.
6. It Might Help Fight Fatigue
One study done on mice concluded that monk fruit extract may help decrease fatigue.
The study showed that mice given monk fruit extract were able to exercise for longer periods of time compared to mice who weren’t consuming monk fruit.
7. It Could Aid in Weight Loss
The increase in consumption of grains and sugars over the last hundreds of years resulted in a worldwide obesity epidemic. Americans now consume up to 13 times more sugar than their ancestors in the 1800s.
In 2017, America became the most obese nation in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), followed by Mexico and New Zealand.
Using monk fruit as a zero-calorie sweetener instead of sugar can help overweight people decrease their total caloric intake while simultaneously battling sugar cravings.
Benefits of the Fruit Sweeteners compared with Sugar
It’s unclear whether eating processed monk fruit sweetener has the same benefits as eating the raw fruit. And if you’re low-carb, you’ve probably tried other alternatives to sugar like stevia and sugar alcohols. Monk fruit provides additional advantages that may be worth the switch.
Generally, Monk Fruit Sweetener has zero calories, carbohydrates, and even sugar. Therefore, Monk fruit extract contains no calories, which is helpful for people on diets that restrict a person’s caloric intake.
Equally important, the fruit extract also contains no carbohydrates, which may make it ideal for people on low-carb or keto diets. Not forgetting, there is no sugar in pure monk fruit extract, which means that consuming it will not affect blood sugar levels.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source considers monk fruit sweeteners to be generally regarded as safe. There appears to be no evidence that monk fruit sweeteners cause harmful side effects.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Monk Fruit Sweetener?
Start with adding a little bit at a time so as not to over sweeten. If monk fruit triggers cravings for other sweet foods, it may be best if you avoid it altogether.
Monk fruit sweeteners taste different from regular table sugar, and some find the taste unusual or unpleasant. The sweeteners can also leave an aftertaste.
Here are the main Pros of Monk Fruit:
- Antioxidants. Some studies trusted sources in animals suggest that mogrosides extracted from monk fruit may have potent antioxidant properties. But, more research is at stake. Particularly, to understand the main effects on humans.
- Diabetes. Research trusted source in animals also suggests that mogrosides play a role in controlling blood sugar levels. Results of another study trusted source indicate that mogroside extracts may help prevent diabetic complications. However, researchers have yet to investigate these effects in humans.
Today, it’s a popular alternative over low-calorie sweeteners like stevia because of its sweeter taste, virtually no aftertaste, and potential antioxidant effects.
Here are the general Cons of a Monk Fruit:
- Availability and cost: Monk fruit is difficult to grow and costly to export, which means that it is not as widely available as other sweeteners, and it can be expensive.
- Taste & Other ingredients: Monk fruit sweeteners taste different from regular table sugar, and some find the taste unusual or unpleasant. The sweeteners can also leave an aftertaste.
Most nonnutritive sweeteners can cause side effects like gas, bloating, or allergic reactions. In the case of monk fruit sweeteners, there are no known side effects. Then again, Monk fruit is challenging to grow, harvest, and dry. It’s also expensive to import and process.
This makes monk fruit sweetener more pricey than other nonnutritive sweeteners. It’s also why there are fewer monk fruit sweetener options on your local supermarket shelves. For the following reasons, a person may think twice before using monk fruit sweeteners to replace sugar:
How do you harvest Monk Fruits?
The most common involves harvesting the fresh fruit, boiling pure monk fruit in hot water then drying it afterward. This creates a powdered extract that looks like stevia.
In general, as of today, consumers in the World, especially, in the US enjoy the zero-calorie sweetener in baking. While manufacturers use it to make products more palatable. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) categorizes monk fruit as “generally recognized as safe.”
Some manufacturers balance the taste of monk fruit by mixing it with other sugars, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. This can change the sweetener nutritional profile and make it unsafe or undesirable for some people.
How do you use the Monk Fruit Sweetener?
Because of this extract maybe 100–250 times sweeter than table sugar, many manufacturers mix monk fruit sweetener with other natural products. Such as inulin or erythritol, to reduce the intensity of the sweetness and balance out the intensity.
As of today, Monk fruit extract is a common standalone sweetener. For instance, as an ingredient in food and drinks, a flavor enhancer, and a component of sweetener blends. It contains no calories and no carbs, making it a great option for a ketogenic diet.
- Substitute for sugar with monk fruit when baking.
- Substitute sugar in sauces and dressings.
- Sweeten breakfast foods with monk fruit.
- Sprinkle monk fruit on sour fruits.
- Add monk fruit extract to coffees and teas.
- Blend monk fruit into smoothies.
- Talk to your doctor about monk fruit and weight loss.
- Switch to natural flavors if monk fruit causes cravings
- Avoid monk fruit sweetener with additives.
- Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes.
Monk fruit sweetener is relatively new to the market, as the FDA only recognized it as generally safe in 2010. Unlike other low-calorie sweeteners, monk fruit extract doesn’t have many studies examining its effects.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s harmful. The mogrosides may also stimulate the release of insulin, which can improve the transportation of sugar out of the bloodstream to help manage blood sugar levels.
Monk fruit is keto-friendly and use can use it in low carb baked recipes where sweetness is required. Currently, no research has examined how monk fruit sweetener specifically affects weight. However, evidence suggests that low-calorie sweeteners may aid weight loss.
To date, studies have used high doses of monk fruit extract that are much more concentrated than what you’re likely to encounter with a sweetener. It’s not clear what dosage you would need to experience any of these health benefits.
A variety of monk fruit sweeteners are available to purchase online.
I hope the above-revised guide will be of help towards your next dietary plan as well as your routine health and fitness checklist.
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