What Is Monk Fruit Sweetener (And Is It Healthy)?

sugar alternatives

November 1, 2020

  • Monk fruit sweetener is a zero calorie, zero carb, diabetic-friendly sugar substitute.
  • Using monk fruit provides your body with antioxidants, which is one reason it may be good for your overall health.
  • Monk fruit can be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • There are no known major side effects of monk fruit sweetener.

What is monk fruit sweetener?

Monk fruit sweetener is a natural sugar substitute made from an extract of monk fruit, a gourd originating in Southeast Asia (China and Thailand) — also named “luo han guo”.

Monk fruit has also been called “Buddha fruit” because it was first used by Buddhist monks during the 13th century.

The monk fruit contains natural sugars such as glucose and fructose. However, the fruit’s sweetness comes primarily from antioxidants called mogrosides.

Processed to remove unwanted flavors and components, monk fruit extract contains a high concentration of mogrosides to achieve the intended level of sweetness.

You can find monk fruit in three forms:

  1. Liquid
  2. Powder
  3. Granule

Is monk fruit an artificial sweetener?

Monk fruit sweetener is neither an artificial sweetener like aspartame, a natural sweetener, like maple syrup, or a sugar alcohol, like xylitol.

Monk fruit extract comes from natural sources, so it is not artificial. But it must be processed to the point that it would be incorrect to call it natural. Many classify monk fruit extract as a “novel sweetener”.

Some monk fruit sweeteners are sold pre-mixed with other sugar substitutes. When choosing a sweetener, check to see if it contains dextrose. Dextrose has a lot of calories and a 100 out of 100 on the glycemic index.

What are the benefits of monk fruit?

  1. Weight management
  2. Diabetes
  3. Oxidative stress
  4. Cancer

Monk Fruit for Weight Management

Monk fruit is helpful for weight management because monk fruit satisfies your sweet tooth but has zero calories.

This means you can eat food and drink sweetened by monk fruit without excess calories from sugar that turn into body fat.

If used properly, monk fruit may help you decrease your sugar intake and reach your weight loss goals.

Can I use monk fruit sweetener while intermittent fasting? You might not want to use monk fruit while intermittent fasting. According to small studies, monk fruit may have a slight stimulating effect on your insulin production. However, other studies disagree.

Monk Fruit for Diabetes

Monk fruit may reduce dangers and symptoms of diabetes.

One major issue facing diabetes patients is hyperglycemia, when your blood sugar levels become dangerously high. Monk fruit has been shown to exhibit antihyperglycemic properties in animal studies.

According to a recent study, monk fruit might fight “against diabetic complications by inhibiting protein glycation and glycoxidation.”

A 2020 animal study reveals that monk fruit may delay the progression of type 2 diabetes.

Is monk fruit sugar good for diabetics? Yes, monk fruit is good for diabetics since it has zero grams of sugar and is a zero on the glycemic index, which means it will not impact blood sugar.

Monk Fruit for Oxidative Stress

Monk fruit seems to reduce oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals wreak havoc on molecules in the body, damaging DNA and increasing the risk for chronic disease.

Free radicals are oxygen reactive species (unpaired electrons) that naturally want one more electron. Sometimes, free radicals take electrons from vulnerable molecules and cause a chain reaction called oxidation. This may be harmful to your health, in which case we call it “oxidative stress”.

Oxidative stress is one thing that causes the body to age. Some oxidative stress is normal in every human body, but excessive oxidative stress is problematic.

Antioxidants are molecules that naturally have an electron to donate to the free radicals without any adverse effect. This neutralizes free radicals and prevents oxidative stress.

According to recent research, monk fruit is an antioxidant, capable of preventing oxidative stress.

Monk Fruit for Cancer

Preliminary studies reveal that monk fruit may fight or prevent cancer cell growth.

A 2016 study published in Nutrients shows that the mogrosides in monk fruit extract may suppress colorectal and throat cancers.

Another 2016 study shows that those mogrosides may also fight pancreatic cancer cells.

These studies have only been performed in a lab. No human studies to date suggest that monk fruit fights any form of cancer in the human body.

Glycemic Index & Calories

Monk extract extract is a no-calorie sugar substitute that does not spike blood sugar levels.

But take note: monk fruit is sometimes mixed with sweeteners that can spike blood sugar, like dextrose or maltodextrin.

  • Glycemic index for monk fruit: 0 out of 100
  • Calories in monk fruit: 0 calories per gram
  • Sweetness: 150-200 times sweeter than sugar

Can I use monk fruit instead of erythritol? You can use monk fruit instead of erythritol. Both monk fruit and erythritol have essentially zero calories and don’t impact blood sugar. Erythritol may be mixed with monk fruit for a more sugar-like taste.

Is monk fruit keto-friendly? Monk fruit is a keto diet-friendly sweetener. Monk fruit is not just low-carb; it contains zero carbs. Mogrosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, therefore monk fruit extract does not spike blood sugar levels and has zero calories.

Monk Fruit for Baking

Because this sweetener is heat-stable, it may be used in baking.

But be sure to consult manufacturer conversion charts for sugar — monk fruit is up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.

Safety & Side Effects of Monk Fruit

There’s no evidence monk fruit has any dangers or side effects, even when consumed in large amounts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that monk fruit extract is GRAS (generally recognized as safe) when used as a sugar substitute.

In rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction to monk fruit. This can cause rashes, hives, or swollen tongue.

There may be a few disadvantages to using monk fruit as a sugar substitute:

  • Some monk fruit sweeteners are combined with dextrose.
  • Monk fruit is expensive.
  • Monk fruit may be hard to find in a grocery store.
  • Some individuals report a bitter aftertaste.
  • Monk fruit has only been studied in the United States for a relatively short time.

Should you use monk fruit?

Monk fruit sweetener is a great alternative sweetener to use if you don’t mind the price tag.

For your health, monk fruit may be superior to other low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame or Splenda. However, monk fruit and the popular sugar alternative, stevia, have similar benefits.

Remember the bottom line: what is right for someone is not always right for everyone. Individuals should determine the best meal plan for their unique needs.

If you are interested in more wellness news, cutting-edge nutrition science, and healthy eating tips, sign up for Clean Plate’s email newsletter. We are dedicated to getting you the best information on living your best life every month.

Sources

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  2. Zhou, G., Zhang, Y., Li, Y., Wang, M., & Li, X. (2018). The metabolism of a natural product mogroside V, in healthy and type 2 diabetic rats. Journal of Chromatography B, 1079, 25-33. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29428672/
  3. Zhou, Y., Zheng, Y., Ebersole, J., & Huang, C. F. (2009). Insulin secretion stimulating effects of mogroside v and fruit extract of luo han kuo (siraitia grosvenori swingle) fruit extract. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica, 44(11), 1252-1257. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21351724/
  4. Tey, S. L., Salleh, N. B., Henry, J., & Forde, C. G. (2017). Effects of aspartame-, monk fruit-, stevia-and sucrose-sweetened beverages on postprandial glucose, insulin and energy intake. International Journal of Obesity, 41(3), 450. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27956737/
  5. Liu, H., Wang, C., Qi, X., Zou, J., & Sun, Z. (2018). Antiglycation and antioxidant activities of mogroside extract from Siraitia grosvenorii (Swingle) fruits. Journal of food science and technology, 55(5), 1880-1888. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5897311/
  6. Xu, Q., Chen, S. Y., Deng, L. D., Feng, L. P., Huang, L. Z., & Yu, R. R. (2013). Antioxidant effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress induced by palmitic acid in mouse insulinoma NIT-1 cells. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 46(11), 949-955. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3854338/
  7. Liu, C., Dai, L., Liu, Y., Rong, L., Dou, D., Sun, Y., & Ma, L. (2016). Antiproliferative activity of triterpene glycoside nutrient from monk fruit in colorectal cancer and throat cancer. Nutrients, 8(6), 360. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924201/
  8. Liu, C., Dai, L. H., Dou, D. Q., Ma, L. Q., & Sun, Y. X. (2016). A natural food sweetener with anti-pancreatic cancer properties. Oncogenesis, 5(4), e217-e217. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848839/
  9. Ban, Q., Cheng, J., Sun, X., Jiang, Y., Zhao, S., Song, X., & Guo, M. (2020). Effects of a synbiotic yogurt using monk fruit extract as sweetener on glucose regulation and gut microbiota in rats with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of Dairy Science, 103(4), 2956-2968. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32089310/
  10. Buchilina, A. (2020). Influence of Health Beneficial Monk Fruit Sweetener on Microbial and Physicochemical Characteristics of Camel Milk Yogurt. Full text: https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6146&context=gradschool_theses
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