Posted 9 months ago
What is Monk Fruit Sweetener?
Monk fruit is also called luo han guo or swingle. 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. It looks like a small gourd, and it grows on a vine. Because, fresh monk fruit spoils rather quickly, traditionally, people used dried monk fruit in herbal medicines. Today, monk fruit is most popular as a natural sweetener. The fruit’s extract contains substances called mogrosides, which are intensely sweet.
According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, monk fruit is around 150–200 times sweeter than sugar. Some manufacturers mix the extract with different sugars to balance out the intensity.
Monk Fruit Pros
A monk fruit sweetener has several benefits when compared with sugar:
Zero calories. Monk fruit extract contains no calories, which is helpful for people on diets that restrict a person’s caloric intake.
Zero carbohydrates. The extract also contains no carbohydrates, which may make it ideal for people on low-carb or keto diets.
Zero sugar. There is no sugar in pure monk fruit extract, which means that consuming it will not affect blood sugar levels.
No harmful side effects. The US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers monk fruit sweeteners to be generally regarded as safe. There appears to be no evidence that monk fruit sweeteners cause harmful side effects.
Available in multiple forms. Monk fruit sweeteners are marketed as granules, powders, and liquids. Some products may be easy to carry and use throughout the day.
Monk fruit sweeteners may also have some health benefits:
Antioxidants. Some studies in animals suggest that mogrosides extracted from monk fruit may have potent antioxidant properties. A specific type of mogroside called mogroside V is the main component of monk fruit sweetener. It comprises more than 30% of the product and is responsible for its sweetness. Studies show that the mogrosides have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Mogroside extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as they inhibit certain harmful molecules and help prevent damage to your DNA. Further research is needed to understand the effects in humans. Also, it is unclear if eating the processed sweetener has the same benefits as eating the fruit.
Diabetes. Research in animals also suggests that mogrosides play a role in controlling blood sugar levels. Results of another study indicate that mogroside extracts may help prevent diabetic complications. However, researchers have yet to investigate these effects in humans.
Monk Fruit Cons
For the following reasons, a person may think twice before using monk fruit sweeteners to replace sugar:
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. Monk fruit sweeteners taste different from regular table sugar, and some find the taste unusual or unpleasant. The sweeteners can also leave an aftertaste.
Other ingredients. Some manufacturers balance the taste of monk fruit by mixing it with other sugars, such as maltodextrin or dextrose. This can change the sweetener’s nutritional profile and make it unsafe or undesirable for some people.
Takeaway- Should I Use?
Monk fruit is a non-nutritive sweetener which means that the product contains very few calories, if any. Monk fruit is considered generally safe for people with diabetes, but always check the labeling to ensure that the manufacturers have not added sugars or carbohydrates. For many people, choosing between these two sweeteners will come down to cost, availability, and taste. Monk fruit is a great alternative to calorie laden sweeteners and has potential health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.
About Brenda Gridley, RDN
Brenda is the Registered Dietitian for our East Valley offices. Brenda is originally from Los Angeles, CA where she attended California State University Los Angeles for her undergraduate degree in Nutritional Science. She began her career with Kaiser Permanente in 2004.
Throughout her professional development, she has worked in Cardiology, including open heart, Renal, including dialysis, organ transplants, and Oncology, including head and neck, radiation and chemotherapy. Within Kaiser Permanente, she specialized in intensive care pediatric and neonatal patients and was responsible for individualizing therapeutic diets based on specific metabolic needs, medical conditions, and cultural preferences.
About Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers
Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers (ICRC) is the largest multi-specialty oncology network in the Greater Metro Phoenix area. They have over 100 medical providers, a robust Integrative Services program and a dedicated clinical research department. Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers has 15 valley locations and five comprehensive cancer care centers that offer a multi-disciplinary approach for expedited personalized patient care. For more information, please visit www.ironwoodcrc.com.