by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Monk fruit sweetener is a low-calorie, all-natural alternative to sugar. It’s also known as luo han guo or luo han kuo (the Chinese words for monk fruit). The monk fruit extract is made from the fruit of the monk fruit plant, which is native to China and Thailand.
The sweetener has been used in Asia for centuries, but it’s only recently become popular in the West. Today, many people are turning to monk fruit sweeteners because they believe it’s better for their health than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.
In this article, we are going to take a deeper dive into what exactly monk fruit is, how it compares to other sweeteners, and all the health benefits you may experience through its use.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be used to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your healthcare professional before adding monk fruit to your nutrition plan to ensure it will not interact with any condition you may have or medication you may be taking.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit is a small, round fruit that grows on a vine. It originated in the mountains of southern China and spread to Southeast Asia, where it’s now grown commercially. Monk fruit contains mogrosides, which are sweeteners that have zero calories and don’t affect blood sugar levels (which is beneficial for a variety of reasons that we’ll touch on shortly).
The taste of monk fruit is much sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it to get the same level of sweetness. As such, it’s often used in low-calorie or “diet” foods.
Companies make carb-free, zero-calorie sweeteners from the dried fruit. It is more or less 250 times sweeter than regular table sugar but doesn’t affect blood glucose levels.
Monk fruit is rich in compounds known as mogrosides, which give it a much higher sweetness than that of sugar.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits the use of monk fruit in foods and beverages because it is safe for all consumers, including pregnant women, children, and even people with diabetes.
Monk Fruit Health Benefits
Monk fruit sweeteners are a healthy sugar substitute with only trace amounts of sugar and carbohydrates. They’re also low glycemic, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar levels as compared to using something like sugar.
Here are five benefits of monk fruit sweeteners you should understand to truly grasp how powerful this sugar substitute is:
1. Helps in Weight Loss
Monk fruit sweeteners have zero calories and carbohydrates, making them an excellent choice for those on low-carb or even zero-carb diets. Unlike artificial sweeteners, monk fruit sweeteners do not cause cravings for more sweets or cause digestion issues. Since you don’t need very much monk fruit to get the sweetness you want out of your food, it can help you reduce your total caloric intake even further — potentially promoting weight loss.
2. Safe for Use by Diabetics
Monk fruit sweeteners are safe for people with diabetes because they do not raise blood sugar levels or cause an insulin spike. They are also great for those who want to lose weight or maintain their weight loss because they have no calories and don’t contain any carbohydrates.
3. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The mogrosides in monk fruit are powerful antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. They can help reduce swelling and pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or gout.
4. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Limited studies suggest that monk fruit may have anti-cancer properties. This could be a game-changer in the grand scheme of things if more research shows the same findings.
According to a 2016 study, it was found that monk fruit extract can suppress the growth of colorectal cancer and throat cancer cells. The authors suggest that monk fruit as a dietary supplement may offer benefits beyond those of standard medications.
Mogrosides also have antioxidant effects, reducing DNA damage by free radicals, which scientists associate with cancer growth.
5. May Have Antibiotic Properties
In today’s time, antibiotic resistance is an aggravating concern. Many doctors find it difficult to treat if someone has an infection due to germs that resist standard antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics is considered to be a contributing factor to these infections.
According to studies, monk fruit may have antibiotic properties.
Some studies also suggest that monk fruit can fight candida. This yeast can cause very painful oral thrush and affect other body parts, such as the digestive system.
Monk Fruit and Keto
The keto diet limits the number of carbohydrates you can consume. So, if you are wondering if monk fruit is keto-friendly, the answer is yes.
Monk fruit has a low carb count, which makes it compatible with the ketogenic diet.
Although, keep in mind that while pure monk fruit extract is keto-friendly, some monk fruit sweeteners may have additives that can increase the carb count and make them unsuitable for a ketogenic diet. For this reason, it is very important to check the label if you are looking for a monk fruit sweetener that is keto-friendly.
Monk Fruit vs. Stevia
Monk fruit and stevia have certain similarities.
The key difference between the two is their taste. Monk fruit sweeteners have a fruit taste to them, while stevia tastes more like licorice. Whether you favor monk fruit or stevia, it will boil down to your personal preference.
Also, stevia can lead to some minor side effects, such as gas, bloating, and nausea. Monk fruit typically does not have any side effects.