Monk Fruit: A Healthy Sugar Substitute

Who doesn’t like sweet after all? From cake to chocolate bars, from tea to coffee, we add sweet to everything. Sugar has been a lifelong treat for most of us but the tide finally seems to be turning. 

Now people have become more alert towards their health as before. Now people have come to know that if they want to live a healthy, happy, long life, then it is absolutely necessary that they grip with their sugar habit.

If you are also among these people then this article is for you.

Well, today, Healthroid is bringing together experts from all over the world to discuss everything you need to know about Monk Fruit.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • What is monk fruit
  • What is monk fruit sweetner
  • Is it safe for children
  • Is it safe for pregnant and breastfeeding
  • Benefits of monk fruit
  • Side effects of monk fruit
  • Effect on weight management
  • Monk Fruit vs. Stevia
  • Lots more

So without further ado, let’s get started.

What is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit is a small, round fruit native to Southeast Asia that also goes by the names Buddha fruit and luo han guo. It has been used as a sweetener and other medicinal purposes for centuries, but was approved in 2010 by the FDA for use in the United States; Trista Best, a Registered Dietitian at Balance One Supplements, explains to Healthroid.

What is Monk Fruit Sweetner?

Monk Fruit Sweetener is derived from monk fruit by removing the stems, seeds and skin, then crushing the fruit to create juice.  This juice concentrate is then dried to leave monk fruit powder sweetener.  The juice itself is sweet in nature, however the non-nutritive sweet taste comes from the antioxidant mogroside contained in the monk fruit, which is 100-250x sweeter than table sugar/sucrose.  Some manufactures then further isolate the mogroside to intensify the sweetening capabilities; Doug Smith from True Nutrition, explains.

Is Monk Fruit Safe for Children?

According to Trista, monk fruit is safe for children unless they have a known gourd allergy. If the child has not been exposed to sweet foods yet it may not be necessary to allow them access to monk fruit sweetener. However, for those children who have been exposed to sweet flavors it makes a great alternative to begin changing their eating habits from refined sugar to a safe alternative.

Also, according to Doug, a few studies have shown monk fruit is fairly benign and might even have health benefits outside of just being a low glycemic non-nutritive sugar substitute, however with all dietary changes you should always consult your pediatrician for further approval/guidance. 

Is Monk Fruit Safe for Pregnant and Breastfeeding?

Monk fruit, in all varieties whether whole or as a sweetener/extract, is considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Again, potential allergy risk should be considered; Lisa Richards, a Nutritionist at The Candida Diet, explains to Healthroid.

What Are the Benefits of Monk Fruit?

According to Lisa, the benefits of monk fruit include the following:

Controls/ Heals Diabetes: As an antihyperglycemic, monk fruit has been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels in the body. It’s also believed that its antioxidant compounds can help pancreatic cells function more efficiently, improving insulin secretion. Better insulin secretion is a major part of improving diabetic patients’ health, and monk fruit has even shown results in reducing kidney damage and other diabetes-related issues.

Antioxidant Properties: Monk fruit harbors an array of health properties that can boost your body’s free-radical fighting powers. In fact, some cultures refer to it as the ‘longevity fruit’, due to its efficacy as an antioxidant. Studies have shown that mogrosides can significantly block harmful reactive oxygen species and prevent DNA oxidative damage. Being both a calorie-free sweetener AND an antioxidant makes monk fruit something of a superfood!

What Are the Side Effects of Monk Fruit?

According to Doug, side effects are rare with monk fruit, but since it’s part of the gourd family, those that are allergic to gourds, ie. pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, etc. could have an adverse reaction.  Additionally, replacing sugar with monk fruit also might not “cure” the physiological and psychological attributes of having sugar issues/cravings/addictions. Curing those addictions might be best not tricking the body/taste buds into thinking you are still getting sugar, but simply removing all sweet things in your diet to begin with.

Where to Buy Monk Fruit?

Whole monk fruit is difficult to find, even in health food stores. Some Asian food markets will have monk fruit on occasion, but it may be a good idea to ask your local Asian market to notify you when they are in stock; Trista explains.

Where to Buy Monk Fruit Sweetners?

Monk fruit extract or sweetener can be purchased online or in health food stores. Note that the sweetness depends on the concentration of the extract and the number of mogrosides it contains. These mogrosides are ranked from 1-5 in terms of their sweetness. Number 5 is the sweetest, and conveys the most health benefits; Lisa explains.

Of course, certain manufacturers may modify the sweetness of a product by adding other ingredients.  When purchasing monk fruit sweeteners, check the ingredients listing for additives. Some commercial products may blend monk fruit with dextrose, molasses and/or sugar alcohols to balance the sweetness. Check the label and be aware of what you’re purchasing; she added.

Effect of Monk Fruit on Weight Management

According to the Lisa, monk fruit helps to manage weight in two ways. First, through its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work in the body to control free radical damage caused by toxins that either enter or are produced by the body. This damage leads to chronic, low-grade inflammation that can lead to weight gain and difficulty with weight loss. Second, monk fruit helps manage weight by replacing high calorie and pro-inflammatory sweeteners traditionally used. 

Monk Fruit vs. Stevia

According to Doug, many feel monk fruit is more “natural” tasting that stevia, where stevia leaf extract is more bitter in nature.  However, higher quality stevia’s that isolate rebaudioside A, the sweet component of stevia, lack the bitterness usually associated with stevia.  Additionally stevia is part of the ragweed family, so anyone that is allergic to ragweed might see an adverse reaction.  You will also see many products with both stevia and monk fruit because of the taste profile of each.  Stevia stimulates the reaction of sweetness on the tongue much faster than monk fruit, however monk fruit’s “finish” on the tongue lasts longer, so the 2 of them together create a much more well rounded taste/sweetness profile.

Also Lisa explains, unlike some sugar alcohols, monk fruit doesn’t cause gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and diarrhea. It also doesn’t have the intensely sweet after-taste that some people dislike about stevia.

Priyank Pandey
With an academic background in Computer Science and Engineering, Priyank is endlessly curious about healthcare, medicines, and genetics. He is passionate about research and delivering high-quality, reliable content to the audience. Before joining the team at Healthroid, Priyank worked as a technical writer, educational trainer, and small business mentor and copy editor.

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