In a time when people are becoming more conscious about their health and weight, COVID-19 has caused many to rethink their overall health and wellness. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight, or recover from infections. This is why many are keeping an eye on their diet, avoiding sugar, and starting to look for a safe and healthy alternative.
One of the most popular sweetener alternatives is Stevia. But recently, the lesser-known monk fruit sweetener is gaining more attention. It has been around and available for decades but has only recently grown in popularity.
Many people prefer monk fruit sweetener because so little is used that it has zero calories or carbohydrates, is up to150 to 200 times sweeter than your normal sugar, and the best thing about it is it contains antioxidants. For people who are unaware of what monk fruit sweetener is, this article will answer all your questions about this natural sweetener!
What is monk fruit sweetener?
Monk fruit sweetener aka Lo Han Guo or also known as Swingle fruit or Buddha fruit is a small, round, and sometimes yellowish or greenish-brown fruit covered with fine hairs. The skin will be hard but underneath is an edible pulp. It can be found in Southeast Asia, commonly in Southern China and the Northern part of Thailand.
Unlike other natural sweeteners, the sweetness you taste from monk fruit sweeteners doesn’t come from the monk fruits’ natural sugars. The intense sweetness comes from the unique antioxidants called mogrosides.
To create the sweetener, the seeds and skin of fruits are removed and the fruits are crushed to collect the juice. Mogroside is extracted and separated from the juice. Then, the monk fruit extract is dried into a concentratedly sweet powder. Hence, the monk fruit sweetener you get will not have any natural sugars like fructose or glucose.
Because of this unique extraction process and how the human body absorbs these mogrosides, monk fruit sweeteners contain zero calories.
What does monk fruit sweetener taste like?
Monk fruit sweetener tastes sweet, but without the guilt of consuming sugar. It might have a slight to no aftertaste. It will mostly depend on the person. Some people say they do not have any aftertaste while some say there is. However, many monk fruit sweetener users say it has less aftertaste compared to other natural sweeteners they tried before.
Health benefits of monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweeteners have many health benefits for health-conscious people. Here are a few:
Promotes weight loss
Monk fruit sweetener is up to 200 times sweeter than sugar, meaning you only need a little to sweeten your treats. Because you need so little, the effects of calories or carbohydrates are minimal. This makes monk fruit sweetener the best option for people on specific diets focused on weight management.
If you are on a strict calorie diet and are craving a sweet coffee or chocolate treat, this alternative sweetener can work for you. Adding monk fruit sweetener to your low-carb or keto lifestyle treats makes meal planning and enjoying yourself a whole lot easier.
However, when you're looking for keto friendly snacks, check to make sure there are no added sugars in the ingredients.
Bonus tip: read the ingredients listed in the brackets because although the food manufacturer did not add any sugars, their supplier may have, and as a result, they can still claim "No Added Sugar."
Has anti-inflammatory properties
In traditional Chinese medicine, monk fruits are used in treating colds, relieving sore throats, reducing phlegm, improving digestion, and more! They are commonly used as a natural sweetener for cold and hot drinks.
According to a 2011 study about mogrosides, monk fruit extracts contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent cancer.
Safe for diabetics
The natural sweetness of monk fruit comes from a natural compound called mogrosides. Pure monk fruit sweetener contains zero fructose or glucose. Meaning, it’s a safe alternative for people with diabetes because it will not change blood sugar levels.
Keep in mind, pure and natural monk sweeteners will not increase your blood sugar levels. However, some packaged monk fruit sweeteners on the market today may not be pure and can contain added sugar alcohols and different ingredients that might increase its calorie and carbohydrates counts and/or affect your blood sugar levels.
As with any product, it is important to check the labels before consuming.
Monk fruit sweetener side effects
Monk fruit allergies are very rare but just like consuming anything, there is a risk of allergic reactions from happening. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae or the gourd family. If you are allergic to other plants included in the gourd family like melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash, there is a higher chance that you will have allergic reactions to monk fruits as well.
Here are the signs you may be allergic to monk fruits:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Hives or rashes
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Stomach pain
- Swollen tongue
Is monk fruit sweetener safe to consume?
Yes, monk fruit sweetener is recognized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as safe under the GRAS designation and it is on the list of permitted sweeteners in Health Canada and Japan’s Ministry of Health.
It is permitted to be used in more than 60 countries worldwide.
You can use monk fruit sweetener in almost anything such as:
- Hot and cold beverages
- Salad dressings
- Dairy products like milk and yogurt
- Hot cereals
- Sugar substitute in baking
- Chocolate or fudge
The pure monk fruit extract is safe for children, breastfeeding moms, and pregnant women. This natural sweetener has been used for hundreds of years as a traditional medicine to cure many problems. Even though few human studies and research are made to examine this sweetener, it is generally classified as safe.
Can children safely consume monk fruit sweeteners?
Yes, monk fruit sweetener is safe for children to consume.
Unlike erythritol or sugars, monk fruit sweetener is not fermentable. They are non-cariogenic, meaning they do not promote tooth decay. This is a healthy alternative for parents with kids who have sweet tooths and want to enjoy sweet keto treats.
Why is monk fruit sweetener so expensive?
Monk fruits are difficult to grow, spoil easily, and are costly to export. They are grown in the mountainous range in Southern China or other Southeast Asian countries like Northern Thailand, by local farmers.
In addition, no chemicals are used to grow these plants. Hence, farmers used natural methods to ensure no bugs and insects get near the plants. They used nets and bottle traps which have been used for centuries.
When the fruits are ready, around September to/or October, monk fruits are ready for harvesting. After they are transported to a factory and inspected for ripeness, size, and shape. Then, they will be washed, crushed, then steeped in water. It will go through the filtration and extraction process to get the mogrosides from the fruits.
Depending on your chosen brand and manufacturer of monk fruit sweetener, a 20g packet will need from 50 to 80 monk fruits. Check the ingredients and labels first before consuming them.
If you are looking for a way to improve your wellness but are not yet ready to give up consuming sweets and fudges, using monk fruit sweetener is your best option. However, you have to remember that not all products are made equal and monk fruit sweetener is no exception.
This natural sweetener can come in a form of powder or liquid and is still processed to some degree. Pure monk fruit extract in powder form is not approved by Health Canada yet. However, monk fruit extract is included in Health Canada’s list of permitted sweeteners as a table-top sweetener only. This means monk fruit sweetener in its powder form is mixed with erythritol, a type of sugar alcohol. With any product, we highly recommend checking the ingredients first before consuming.
How will monk fruit sweetener help you?
Incorporating monk fruit sweetener into your treats, drinks, or food can help you lower your intake of sugar while providing you the satisfaction of something sweet. Not only will you enjoy the sweetness, but you’ll enjoy the added health benefits as well.
Choosing a healthy diet and lifestyle by being mindful of the ingredients you consume can help you reduce your risk of illness and inflammation. Even if you don’t see a difference right away, over time these healthy lifestyle habits lead to achieving better health goals.