Ditching processed white sugar is something many of us strive to do. We swirl honey into our tea, sprinkle stevia on our oatmeal and scoop coconut sugar into our baking bowls, all hoping for a healthier – yet just as sweet – addition to our favorite foods and drinks. While natural options are everywhere today, there’s one sweetener on the shelf that you may not have tried yet: monk fruit.
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit is a delicious, natural sweetener with zero calories, said to be between 150 to 300 times sweeter than white table sugar. It comes from a melon cultivated by Buddhist monks in China in 13th century, when it was used primarily as a health remedy. Food manufacturers analyzed the fruit and discovered it contains antioxidant compounds called mogrosides that are extremely sweet. The Food and Drug Administration approved monk fruit as a sweetener in 2010, and now it’s available in sprinkle-on form, just like sugar.
How is it being used?
Monk fruit has made its way into many products that were formerly sweetened with artificial or otherwise unpleasant sweeteners like aspartame, stevia (which can have a bitter aftertaste) or sugar alcohols, including xylitol. (Note that sugar alcohols aren’t tolerated by everyone. Some people experience gas, bloating, or diarrhea when they ingest them.)
You’ll find monk fruit listed on product labels as either monk fruit extract, or luo han guo, or Nectresse. However, Nectresse isn’t just monk fruit, it also contains sugar, erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and molasses.
Satisfy your sweet tooth
Because it’s a stable substance, monk fruit can be used in cooking or baking—you can substitute it for sugar, cup for cup, in your favorite recipes. Monk Fruit in the Raw is available in scoopable form and contains only the sweetener and maltodextrin (a complex sugar derived from corn starch or rice starch), and no other additives.
Monk fruit also mixes easily into tea or lemonade, or you can sprinkle it over your favorite cereal. Take it along with you in convenient packets, or stir a few drops of the liquid into beverages at home.
Is monk fruit healthy?
Monk fruit is a great addition to the diet of anyone who’s looking for a sweet fix but doesn’t want excess calories. Although there are no known side effects from using this sweetener, it appears that it hasn’t been well studied in humans. Like any sugar substitute, it could create sweet cravings and possibly lead to overeating, which in turn could contribute to weight gain.
If you use this natural sweetener in moderation, it could be a great addition to your diet.