Recent health recommendations have made us realize we can't deny: Americans consume far too much sugar along with other sweeteners. In other blogs, we've shared the dangers of artificial sweeteners and given advice on some of the best natural sugar alternatives. Stevia is a well-known all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener. But there is another all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener that comes from the monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo. So here's what you need to know about monk fruit that will get you wondering why you haven't tried it sooner:
What is monk fruit?
The fruit, luo han guo, is a small melon-shaped fruit about the size of a lemon. It’s technically a gourd1 and grows on vines in the forests and mountains of southern China2. It’s been cultivated for centuries and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds, sore throats and intestinal issues. It earned the nickname “monk fruit” because it was originally grown by Buddhist monks3.
Recently, it was approved by the FDA as Generally Recognized As Safe(GRAS)4. Unfortunately, right now there are laws in place preventing monk fruit from being grown outside of China5. This has caused the price to go up as demand also increases, making monk fruit a more expensive alternative than other options like stevia.
How is monk fruit zero-calorie?
Monk fruit is anywhere from 100-250 times sweeter than regular sugar6. You might be wondering how something so sweet could still be zero-calorie! While monk fruit does contain fructose and glucose, it’s actually the fruit’s powerful and unique antioxidants that make it sweet7. Called mogrosides, these antioxidants are separated from the sugar during processing, thus making it zero calorie.
How is monk fruit processed as a sweetener?
The process used to create monk fruit sweetener is fairly natural. The seeds and skin of the fruit are removed and the remaining fruit is crushed to release the juice8. The juice is then collected, dried and turned into a concentrated powder. Because it’s so much sweeter than normal sugar, some companies combine the final product with inulin or erythritol to cut the intense sweetness.
What are the benefits of using monk fruit?
Aside from allowing you to enjoy sweet treats with less guilt, monk fruit has other health benefits as well:
1. Helps lose weight faster. Using low- or zero-calorie sweeteners to replace higher calorie versions can cause you to lose weight faster9.
2. Has anti-inflammatory properties. This trait of monk fruit’s antioxidants can help prevent DNA damage, prevent cancer and lower the risk of complications in diabetes. In one study, monk fruit decisively suppressed leukemia cell growth in mice10.
3. Could lower blood sugar. Not only is it zero-calorie and carb free (therefore incapable of raising blood sugar levels), there is some evidence monk fruit might actually lower blood sugar levels and increase good cholesterol11!
4. It tastes great. Most zero-calorie sweeteners have unpleasant aftertastes. Some aren’t as bad as others, but it’s still there. Monk fruit has a much less detectible flavor, making it less noticeable in foods and beverages using it.
Are there risks to using monk fruit?
So far, nothing has surfaced to indicate any risks in using monk fruit as a sweetener. That said, this is a relatively new sweetener and not many studies have been done to learn more about monk fruit. On the upside, though, it has been used for centuries in Asia with no apparent bad side affects.
Monk fruit sweetener in its pure form can be a natural, safe sugar alternative. It’s one of the sweeteners we’ve chosen to use in our 310 products because of its great taste and zero-calorie properties. If you’re looking for a shake or weight loss products with a clean, sugar-free ingredient list, be sure to check out our line of310 products!
1. Dr. Mike Roussell. (n.d.). Ask the Diet Doctor: Monk Fruit. http://www.shape.com
2. Amy Campbell, Ms, RD, LDN, CDE. (June 22, 2015). Sugar Substitutes: Monk Fruit Extract. http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com
3. What Is Monk Fruit? (n.d.). https://monkfruit.org
4. Dr. Mike Roussell. (n.d.). Ask the Diet Doctor: Monk Fruit. http://www.shape.com
5. Amy Campbell, Ms, RD, LDN, CDE. (June 22, 2015). Sugar Substitutes: Monk Fruit Extract. http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com
6. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD. (April 2016). Monk Fruit Sweetener – Good or Bad?
7. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD. (April 2016). Monk Fruit Sweetener – Good or Bad?
8. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD. (April 2016). Monk Fruit Sweetener – Good or Bad?
9. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD. (April 2016). Monk Fruit Sweetener – Good or Bad?
10. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD. (April 2016). Monk Fruit Sweetener – Good or Bad?
11. Dr. Mike Roussell. (n.d.). Ask the Diet Doctor: Monk Fruit. http://www.shape.com