Could an ancient fruit become the newest big thing to challenge sugar? Several companies are betting on monk fruit (called “luo han guo” in its native China, and named for the monks said to have once harvested it). As with the herb stevia, ultra-sweet compounds are extracted from the fruit, creating a sweetener that’s about 300 times more intense than sugar (monk fruit’s extracts are called “mogrosides” ). Unlike stevia, it is caloric, but since just a few grains are enough to sweeten a cup of tea, a serving contains negligible calories. The antioxidant-rich fruit—not the extract—is traditionally used to treat sore throats, coughs and gut problems, and mogrosides are being researched for potential to prevent certain cancers. Check out your choices, listed from the ones with the fewest potentially harmful additives to the most:
- NuNaturals LoSweet Pure Lo Han Guo Powder. This is pure monk fruit extract, and just a pinch may be more than enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee. It’s recommended for mixing up large batches of drinks or for baking, and is said to have “a unique taste profile.”
Made by Swanson, this is monk fruit extract blended with inulin and silica. It’s blended to make it easier to measure and to regulate the flavor.
Made in Japan, this is a sugar-like blend of only monk fruit extract and erythritol, a sugar alcohol.
- Monk Fruit in the Raw.
Made by Brooklyn-based company In the Raw, this packet is made with monk fruit extract plus dextrose, a sugar that’s usually corn-based (diabetics take note). Online commenters like its “clean” flavor.
- Monk Fruit to Go. Sold by Walmart, this liquid sweetener is mainly water and monk fruit extract. However, it also contains malic acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives.
This is blended with erythritol, sugar and molasses, making it about twice as sweet as sugar. A single serving is still considered calorie-free, but diabetics should know that it’s not sugar-free. Owned by the same companies that own Splenda, it’s said to have no aftertaste.