Monk fruit, also known as lua han guo, is a small fruit with green/brown, hard skin; it resembles a melon. Monk fruit is native to Southern China and Northern Thailand, and it was first used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century. Monk fruit sweetener is made from the fruit extract, which is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit sweetener is used as a replacement for sugar and is popular among low-carbs eaters because it does not contain calories, carbohydrates, sodium, or fat. This seems too good to be true, so you may just be wondering: is monk fruit sweetener safe?
The Safety Verdict
According to the U.S. Food And Drug Administration, and other governments in Canada, China, Japan, and Singapore, monk fruit sweetener is considered safe for adults, children, people with diabetes, and pregnant women. Monk fruit sweetener can help you lose weight when used to replace sugar and full-calorie sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup, which have around 60 calories per tablespoon. However, foods and beverages that contain monk fruit sweetener often have other ingredients with substantial calories, so reading labels is always an excellent habit.
Monk Fruit Benefits
There are many reasons to use monk fruit sweetener in your diet, including the fact that monk fruit sugar has no side effects.
- It does not affect blood sugar levels.
- It maintains a healthy weight.
- It is available in liquid, granule, and powder forms.
- It is safe for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women.
There are just a few negative aspects associated with monk fruit sweetener:
- It is expensive to import and difficult to grow.
- The aftertaste might be unpleasant, bitter, or metallic.
- Commercially sold monk fruit sweetener might contain dextrose, a form of sugar made from corn.
Although monk fruit sweetener does not have side effects, remember that moderation is key. If you get used to adding sweeteners to food, you might start to crave sugary foodstuffs that can harm your health in the long term.
Monk Fruit Nutrition
Monk fruit does not contain carbohydrates when it is dried to make monk fruit sweetener, but when fresh, it does offer around 30% carbs, and also some vitamin C. The fresh fruit does not have a long shelf life, so the only way to enjoy it with all its nutritional value is going to one of the places where the fruit grows, such as China or Thailand. Monk fruit is very sweet, but the flavor is not due to natural sugars. Monk fruit contains antioxidants called mogrosides that are responsible for the sweet taste. These compounds are not metabolized by our bodies like natural sugars are, so they have no effect on blood sugar levels.
Monk Fruit and Stevia
Stevia is another common sweetener that people use as a replacement for sugar. Stevia is extracted from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to South America. Like monk fruit, stevia is much sweeter than table sugar because of a substance called steviol glycoside.
The U.S. Food And Drug Administration considers stevia to be generally safe, but it might have some side effects, including gas, nausea, and bloating. For this reason, the FDA only allows the import of highly purified extracts of steviol glycosides.
Monk fruit and stevia have similar properties. Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, no sugars, and is available in many forms. Like monk fruit, stevia is more expensive and less available than other sweeteners; some people might find the aftertaste unpleasant. When choosing between monk fruit and stevia, consider price, availability, added ingredients, and stevia’s possible side effects.
Monk Fruit Benefits
Monk fruit contains antioxidants that can help the body fight free radicals and inflammation and prevent diseases.
Has Antioxidant Anti-inflammation Properties
The compounds in monk fruit called mogrosides are powerful antioxidants. An animal study analyzed the antioxidant effect of mogrosides. Results suggest these compounds protect cells from oxidative stress.
Monk fruit has been used for thousands of years in China in hot drinks to reduce the inflammation caused by a sore throat and help eliminate phlegm. A team of researchers conducted a study on murine and found that mogrosides can inhibit inflammation. Additional research found a new antibacterial compound in monk fruit. Scientists found that this compound may have inhibitory ability against the growth of oral bacterial species. These studies have also found that mogrosides may reduce candida symptoms and inhibit the growth of the disease.
May Prevent Diabetes
According to the American Heart Association, over the past 30 years Americans have steadily consumed more added sugars. This trend has contributed to the obesity epidemic and to a higher risk of heart disease.
Monk fruit sweetener provides the sweet flavor that people often crave without affecting blood sugar levels. For this reason, monk fruit sweetener is an excellent replacement for sugar, and it is also considered safe for people who suffer from obesity and diabetes. Besides, studies conducted on rats showed that monk fruit extract may inhibit the rise of blood sugar levels.
A team of researchers conducted a study on mice to analyze the effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress in pancreatic cells, which is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Results showed that mogrosides may have an antioxidant effect by regulating expression of genes involved in glucose metabolism. Additional research showed that the mogrosides in monk fruit extract exhibited antidiabetic effects. Data also indicates that monk fruit extract supplementation may prevent complications from type 2 diabetes. Insulin secretion plays a key role in improving diabetic patients’ health, and studies show that monk fruit extract may stimulate insulin secretion.
May Inhibit Cancer Development
Monk fruit may be a great ally in the fight against cancer. Studies suggest that cucurbitacin, a compound found in monk fruit and other plants that belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, may inhibit cancer development. A team of researchers in Japan analyzed the effects of various compounds contained in monk fruit and found that mogrosides may have potent inhibitory effects on cancer.
A study on the effects of monk fruit extract on physical fatigue showed that monk fruit extract extended the swimming time of mice. These results show that monk fruit may have anti-fatigue effects, and possibly demonstrate the same impact on humans.
A team of researchers studied the effect of monk fruit extract on histamine-induced nasal rubbing in mice and found that the extract significantly inhibited nasal rubbing and skin scratching behavior after a treatment of four weeks. Results suggest that monk fruit could also fight allergic reactions.