Monk fruit is also known as Luo Han Guo and is native to northern Thailand and southern China; and was named after the Buddhist monks who cultivated it in the 13th century.
Traditionally, monk fruit is used as herbal remedy with the dried monk fruit used as a herbal tea to ease colds and as a digestive aid. Its unique taste and and soothing qualities make it powerful tonic for lung conditions and upper respiratory tract infections.
Monk fruit is also commonly used as a natural sweetener and this is done by removing the seeds and skin, crushing the fruit and extracting the juice. The juice is 15-200 times sweeter than sugar and contains zero calories! This makes it a much healthier alternative to sugar.
3 Reasons Why Monk Fruit Can Be A Healthier Choice:
Safe for diabetes, no impact on blood sugar level
The sweetness of monk fruit comes from natural compounds called mogrosides; and like Stevia, it has a zero glycemic index and no impact on blood sugar levels at all. Being calorie and sugar-free means it’s safe for diabetics.
Zero calories, carbohydrates and fat—great for weight loss and maintenance
If weight management is your concern and/or you want to cut sugar out of your diet, monk fruit is a good sweetener choice. It’s also a good option for those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Natural & safe for everyone—no side effect with extra health benefits
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labelled monk fruit as ‘generally recognised to be safe (GRAS)’ for everyone including children and pregnant women. There are no scientific studies based on its long-term use, but it has been proven than mogrosides are high in antioxidants and may actually help reduce oxidative stress. Although more studies are required, monk fruit clearly has many potential health benefits.
Photo: Julian Bakery
But There Are Some Downsides To Monk Fruit:
Price: Monk fruit is very challenging to grow, harvest and dry. The fresh fruit doesn’t last long and turns rancid after being harvested. This means that it’s difficult to find the fresh fruit and the price is high due to the handling process.
Unique herbal aftertaste: Some find the taste of monk fruit pleasant, while others don’t like the slightly bitter, herbal taste. This can make it challenging to use in certain dishes.
Processing methods may affect quality: Depending on the manufacturer and processing methods, some dried monk fruit may have added sweeteners like dextrose and maltodextrin. This changes the nutritional profile and makes it unsafe for some people. Monk fruit purchased at Chinese medical halls may not be labelled properly and this can make it difficult to find out if there are additives.
Potential monk fruit allergy: Monk fruit is a member of the Curcurbitaceae family, which is same family as pumpkin, squash, cucumber and melons. If you are allergic to other gourds, the chances are you might be also have issue with monk fruit.
Answering Common Questions About Monk Fruit
Is monk fruit a safe sweetener for children?
Yes. FDA-permitted monk fruit sweeteners are safe options for children and teens and can be included as part of a well-balanced diet. Incorporating some low-calorie, sugar-free foods and beverages into meals and snacks is a good way to avoid consuming excess calories.
Can pregnant and breastfeeding women consume monk fruit?
Yes. Research has shown that consuming monk fruit sweeteners is safe for expecting or nursing mothers. Pregnant women are encouraged to seek medical advice regarding what to eat for a healthy pregnancy. Monk fruit is a good alternative for those suffering gestational diabetes.
Does monk fruit promote weight loss?
Despite the widespread use of sugar substitutes, there’s no evidence that any of them—including stevia and monk fruit—promotes weight loss. A Canadian study published in 2017 analysed 37 studies on sweeteners based on data from more than 400,000 people over 10 years, and none of them helped with weight loss. In fact, studies show that people who consumed one or more artificially-sweetened drinks a day, have a higher risk of weight gain.
Monk fruit and Stevia are good alternatives to sweeteners and are safe for most people including diabetics. However, the manufacturing process can be a concern due to the possibility of additives. If you’re using it as a natural sweetener, it’s advised to use the whole dried fruit, which is full of vitamins and minerals, and not just the mogroside extract.
- Xu Q, Chen SY, Deng LD, Feng LP, Huang LZ, Yu RR. Antioxidant effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress induced by palmitic acid in mouse insulinoma NIT-1 cells. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2013;46(11):949-955.
Header image credit: MyFitnessPal