What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener?
The latest natural, zero-calorie sweetener to hit the shelves carries a few health claims too.
Lately it seems we are constantly being bombarded with anti-sugar messaging. Hey, there’s no doubt that the average American is eating way too much added sugar, and that could lead to health consequences, such as tooth decay, heart disease, obesity and fatty liver disease.
But I also think there are so many alternative sugars now on the market that the average consumer gets overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to turn. Which leads us to the latest alternative sweetener that many of my friends and family are asking about – sugar made from monk fruit.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit is a small green melon found in southern China and northern Thailand. For centuries, it was grown by Buddhist monks, hence where the name originates from, and used in Eastern medicine. This fruit spoils rather quickly, so unless you live in these regions, you probably never will eat it in its whole form. Instead – after the skin and seeds have been removed, the fruit crushed and juice extracted – you’ll find the dried, concentrated powder on shelves here in the U.S.
(COURTESY OF WHOLESOME YUM)
According to the USDA, monk fruit sweetener has 0 calories, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein and 0 grams of carbs for a single packet (0.8g). It’s 150 to 250 times sweeter than table sugar. Its sweet taste comes from the unique antioxidant mogroside, which is extracted from the fruit’s own sugar compound glycoside. Even though the whole fruit may have some vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, the actual amount that winds up in the dried powder is basically zero.
- Weight loss: There always seems to be claims of weight loss when speaking about low to zero calorie sweeteners. To date, however, there have been no scientific studies that have looked at relationship between monk fruit and weight. One might assume though if a person is cutting back on total calories from sugary foods, it may result in some weight loss.
- Cancer: One study conducted invitro, meaning outside a human organism like in a test tube, from 2016 found that mogroside might help suppress colorectal and throat cancer. More research is indeed needed and specifically what the dosage would be to see any benefit to humans.
- Anti-inflammatory: Antioxidants overall are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help boost immune health, decrease risk for heart disease and improve joint pain. However, again the research here is limited. One study though, conducted on mice, found that mogroside IVE, a main compound isolated from mogroside, provided protection against liver fibrosis (a formation of scar tissue).
- Blood sugar control: Since monk fruit does not have any carbs or calories, it should not raise blood sugars and is considered safe for persons with diabetes. However, this is not to be confused with consuming packets of monk fruit for blood sugar control. A person with diabetes should always consult with their physician.
Is It Keto Friendly?
The short answer: yes. I think one of the reasons that monk fruit has actually become so popular recently is that it’s keto diet friendly due to the fact that is has zero grams of sugar and carbs. But, whether or not someone should be on a keto diet is a story for another time.
How to Use It
You can basically use monk fruit as you would regular table sugar, such as sweetening for a coffee or tea, smoothie, oatmeal or plain yogurt. Try replacing the amount of regular sugar you use with about a third of monk fruit sweetener. If you were to use in baking, it’s recommended to use half the amount you would for sugar.
There have been no side effects reported. Monk fruit has been identified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, approving its use as a sweetener in 2010. It can be safely enjoyed by children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
If you want to try monk fruit, go for it. It’s another option for lowering one’s total intake of added sugar.