Everyone knows how harmful sugar can be to your body when consumed regularly. And with sugar intake being higher than ever before, our population has become physically addicted to sweets.
The American Heart Association recommends Americans to have no more than 36 grams of sugar a day. But the average consumer exceeds that amount in just one meal.
Luckily, there are several natural sweeteners that can satisfy your cravings for sweetness without all of the harmful side effects.
Monk fruit in particular contains compounds that are just as sweet as cane sugar but doesn’t have any of the calories or negative effects on blood sugar.
It’s been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years and has just recently begun to make its way into food markets all over the U.S.
As the awareness for health concerns that come with overconsumption of sugar is increased — people are looking for natural alternatives — with monk fruit being one of the best options available.
In this article, we’re going to talk about:
- What is Monk Fruit
- History of Monk Fruit
- Benefits of Monk Fruit
- Is Monk Fruit the Best Low Calorie Sweetener
- Cons to Monk Fruit
Monk fruit is a green gourd grown in Southeast Asia. Also known as lo han guo, it has been used for hundreds of years in Eastern medicine as a way to remedy the cold and as a digestive aid.
Normally monk fruit isn’t consumed fresh. Instead, people will extract the fruit’s sugary-tasting compounds to use it as a zero calorie sweetener.
It is now being used as a zero-calorie sweetener and has become a popular alternative over other low calorie sweeteners like stevia. This is because monk fruit contains antioxidants such as mogroside which provides several health benefits that other sweeteners don’t.
Monk fruit extract is 150 to 200 times sweeter than normal sugar and contains zero calories.
This makes it an attractive alternative for both everyday consumers looking to appease their cravings along with manufacturers who are looking to make their low carb products more palatable.
Monk Fruit’s Micronutrient Profile
When consumed as a fresh fruit, monk fruit contains up to 35% of daily carbohydrate intake and vitamin C.
But due to its highly short shelf life as a fruit after harvest, it’s typically only consumed as a zero-calorie sweetener.
Monk fruit is not sweet because of its natural sugars. Instead, it contains antioxidants called mogrosides. These antioxidants are metabolized differently compared to natural sugars which gives it the unique highly sweet taste while containing zero calories and having no effect on blood sugar.
Monk fruit has grown on steep, forested mountains in tiny family orchards for hundreds of years.
For several generations, growers would carefully nurture the monk fruit vines then hand-pick each harvest before selling them at their local food market.
It’s named after the buddhist monks who first cultivated it nearly 800 years ago. Ever since, it’s been treasured for its health giving powers.
Monk fruit was originally harvested in the southern regions of China, mostly in the Guangdong and Guangxi mountains.
Once harvested, the fruit would be dried before being distributed all throughout Asian communities where it would be used as a low calorie sweetener and food ingredient.
Monk fruit was originally brought to North America in the early 20th century by a group from the National Geographic Society, who coined the fruit’s scientific name — siraitia grosvenorii — after president Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor.
#1: Fights Infection
Monk fruit has powerful anti-infection properties and has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria, especially in oral bacteria that may cause tooth decay.
#2: Decreases the Risk of Diabetes
Monk fruit has been used as an anti-diabetic medication by the Chinese long before it was ever known as the low calorie sweetener.
Studies show that monk fruit helps bring down glucose levels in the body and also has the ability to secrete insulin in the body more efficiently[*].
The ample amounts of mogrosides in monk fruit gives it the medicinal ability to help prevent diabetic symptoms.
#3: Helps Prevent Cancer
The antioxidants in monk fruit provide promising cancer-preventing properties.
One study in found that mogroside V had the ability to inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancer cells in mice[*].
Another study showed that monk fruit had anticancer effects in colorectal and throat cancer[*].
#4: Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The Ancient Chinese used monk fruit as a way to help with any inflammation from fevers to heat stroke.
Inflammation is known to cause a wide array of health issues to the body. Studies have demonstrated that monk fruit has anti-inflammatory effects, giving it potential for disease prevention[*].
A study conducted in 2011 showed that monk fruit has been used for centuries to reduce phlegm and relieve sore throats. The mogrosides are believed to be the main factor for its anti-inflammatory abilities[*].
#5: Helps Fight Fatigue
One study on mice concluded that monk fruit extract was deemed successful in helping decrease fatigue in mice who consistently exercised.
The study showed that the mice given the monk fruit extract were able to exercise for longer periods of time compared to the mice who weren’t consuming monk fruit[*].
#6: Reduces the Risk of Obesity
The overconsumption of sugar over the last hundred years has resulted in a worldwide obesity epidemic. America is consuming up to 13 times more sugar today as compared to our ancestors in the 1800s.
With the increase in sugar, we have become the most obese society in history.
Using monk fruit as a zero calorie sweetener can help overweight people decrease their total caloric intake while still satisfying their sugar cravings[*].
#7: Relieves Symptoms of Allergies
When we experience an allergic reaction, our body’s release several different chemicals into our system, one of them being histamine. These chemicals are responsible for allergy symptoms like coughing, itching and inflammation.
Monk fruit extract, when used consistently, has shown to reduce histamine and can even help reduce asthmatic reactions[*].
Monk Fruit as the Go-To Low Calorie Sweetener
With the rise of a health-conscious population, many people are looking for zero calorie sweeteners to help satisfy their sugar cravings without all of the additional calories.
Other low calorie sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose may contain compounds that are harmful to your health. One study showed that sucralose was responsible for damaging the gut microbiome and inducing liver inflammation in mice[*].
Luckily, monk fruit sweetener is a natural extract that isn’t accompanied with detrimental health consequences when used.
Yes. In the United States, monk fruit sweeteners are “Generally Recognized as Safe” or GRAS.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have gone through the research and have considered monk fruit sweeteners to be safe for use in all foods and beverages.
Will Monk Fruit Sweetener Make You Gain Weight?
No. Monk fruit sweeteners are a zero calorie sweetener which is why it’s rising in popularity.
However, there are some food and drinks that may contain other ingredients such as dextrose to balance the sweetness.
Be sure to look at the nutrition facts of what you’re consuming to make sure there aren’t any hidden calories if weight gain is a concern for you.
Can Diabetics Use Monk Fruit Sweetener Without Repercussions?
Yes. Since monk fruit has zero calories, it will not affect blood sugar levels.
It is used as an alternative for people with diabetes to reduce their total calorie sugar and carbohydrate intake.
Will Monk Fruit Sweetener Kick Me Out of Ketosis?
No. Many people decide to incorporate monk fruit sweetener into their ketogenic diet because it is a natural non-nutritive sweetener. This means that the monk fruit extract contains zero calories.
Unlike other “healthy sweeteners” like agave nectar or maple syrup, monk fruit sweetener has a very small amount of carbohydrates which means you can use it sparingly without worrying about sugar interfering with your ketogenic diet.
This makes the transition into ketosis more tolerable for beginners who have a sweet tooth and makes it a highly sustainable for long-term ketogenic dieters.
There is only .4 grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon of In The Raw monk fruit sweetener. This amount of carbohydrate is so miniscule that it would take up to 80 teaspoons of monk fruit sweetener just to consume 30 grams of carbs. Even then, there’s a good chance that you will still stay in ketosis.
Products that Use Monk Fruit
There are a large variety of food and drinks in the U.S. that contain monk fruit sweetener including:
- Yogurts — Chobani, Yoplait and Arctic Zero
- Sauces — salad dressings and jellies
- Fruit Bowls — Dole diced peaches and mandarin oranges
- Tabletop sweeteners
- Baked goods — pastries, cereal bars and cookies
Using monk fruit is a great way to make low-carb desserts that will satisfy your cravings while without spiking your blood sugar levels.
Is it Better Than Other Low Calorie Sweeteners on the Market?
The biggest competitor to monk fruit is stevia. This is because most of the other low calorie sweeteners such as agave or honey still contain sugar and can spike your blood sugar.
Stevia is just like monk fruit in that they are both nonnutritive sweeteners meaning that have zero calories or nutrients.
Monk fruit is not as refined as stevia but some brands may contain other ingredients.
Both of these sweeteners can be used for baking since they are heat stable.
Stevia is often mixed in with sugar alcohol and chemically processed, which a lot of people have trouble digesting.
Monk fruit and stevia are two of the best low calorie sweeteners you can find on the market and it comes down to your own taste preference.
How to Buy Monk Fruit
The best and simplest way to start using monk fruit is by purchasing a monk fruit extract or monk fruit sweetener. The sweetness of monk fruit comes from the mogrosides, which varies for each manufacturer.
They are available in liquid, granule and powdered forms.
You can also purchase dried monk fruit at Chinese markets. Some people like to use the dried fruit in fruits and teas.
Monk fruit extract is manufactured in a few different ways. The most common is having the fresh fruit harvested and the juice mixed in with hot water then dried afterwards to create a powdered extract.
Here are a few negatives to monk fruit:
- Harder to grow than other sweeteners on the market
- More expensive to import
- Some people claim there is an unpleasant aftertaste
- Many monk fruit sweeteners are mixed with other sweeteners that contain calories
- Harder to find in food stores
Recent research also shows that many zero-calorie sweeteners can negatively impact the gut bacteria and the lining of intestines[*].
Use Monk Fruit Sweetener to Satisfy Your Sugar Cravings Without the Extra Calories
Monk fruit has been around for centuries and is considered to be the healthiest zero calorie sweetener on the market.
Not only does it make your food and drink more palatable, it contains antioxidants like mogrosides which are metabolized differently in your body. This makes it a great alternative for diabetics who still have a sweet tooth.
There are several benefits to monk fruit such as fighting inflammation, combating infection and fighting fatigue. So if you enjoy the taste of this ancient low calorie sweetener, monk fruit may be the best option for you.
Lorenz is a freelance copywriter and ketogenic diet blogger. He’s made it a personal mission to help others benefit from the low carb high fat keto lifestyle.