Sugar-Free Sweetener: Monk Fruit Extract
Stevia is one of the most popular sugar-free sweeteners found in sugar-free products and treats. I have experimented a lot with stevia, and I must report that sometimes it has the ability to ruin a treat or drink with its “fake sugar” aftertaste. Stevia works well in small amounts with other flavors that mask its own flavor, but I was on the hunt for something new. I scoured my local grocery store for an alternative to stevia, and landed on monk fruit sweetener!
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit is a small melon-like fruit that originates from China. It is also called lo han guo or Swingle fruit. Like stevia, monk fruit has a very concentrated sweetness. It is actually 100-250 times sweeter than sugar!1
Does it contain any sugar or calories?
Pure monk fruit extract powder does not typically contain sugar or calories. The sweet taste in monk fruit comes from the extracted mogrosides, which is a non-nutritive sweetener, which means it contains very little to no calories.1
I looked at a few different brands and saw that some pure monk fruit powders contain 1 gram of carbohydrates, which is hardly worth noting. Some name brands that use monk fruit extract to create sugar-free sweeteners also contain other compounds, such as sugar alcohols, stevia, or even a few grams of real sugar. If you are trying to avoid these things, it is best to check labels and go for pure monk fruit powder sweetener.
Is Monk fruit safe to consume for those who have type 2 diabetes?
Yes! It is safe to consume if you have type 2 diabetes because monk fruit sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels.3 Deceivingly, it tastes very sweet, but it does not contain regular sugar that has the potential to spike blood sugar levels.
Is it FDA approved?
On the FDA website, they stated they have received GRAS (generally recognized as safe) notices for monk fruit sweetener. They have not questioned the use of monk fruit sweeteners “for use as a general-purpose sweetener or a flavor modifier in foods,” or as a tabletop sweetener.4 There is currently not an acceptable daily intake established for this product.
There has not been much research on the long-term effects of the use of monk fruit sweetener. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, this alternative sweetener has the status of posing a risk simply because there hasn’t been much testing conducted. The site states, “It is derived from a fruit that has been consumed in China for at least several hundred years and used as an herbal medicine for the past several decades, so it may well be safe, although any chronic adverse effects might easily have escaped detection.”2 Monk fruit has been used for many years, however, there has not been a lot of modern studies and tests conducted on it.
I am excited to share I like monk fruit sweetener more than stevia! The brand I tried is called Lakanto, and I tried their liquid monk fruit sweetener. For a small container, it was a little pricey (I believe it was $8-$9), but since the sweetness is so concentrated there are a lot of servings. In this product, there are no additives except for water and lemon juice as a preservative. It is a very strong sweetness, so I only used 3 drops. The aftertaste wasn't weird, however, I could still tell it wasn't "real" sugar.
Conclusion on monk fruit
Monk fruit sweetener may prove to be a great alternative to stevia! This natural, sugar-free sweetener contains no calories and studies have shown that it does not raise blood sugar. Since the sweetness is so concentrated, you need to use very little of it. It can be a replacement for sugar and stevia in baked goods, coffee, tea, and other treats. I have found it in health food stores, Whole Foods, online, and even in bargain stores like Grocery Outlet.
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