Health Benefits of Monk Fruit

Monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, is a zero-calorie sweetener that's been gaining popularity in the United States. The fruit comes from the Siraitia grosvenorii plant, which is native to southern parts of China.

Monk fruit extract is 300 times sweeter than table sugar and doesn’t impact blood sugar levels. Plus, unlike artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose, monk fruit is considered a natural sweetener and hasn’t been linked to health risks.

For these reasons, monk fruit has become a helpful sugar alternative for people looking to reduce their intake of added sugar and for those with health conditions like type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Since monk fruit is still a relatively new sweetener in the U.S., human research on the health benefits of monk fruit are limited. However, some studies suggest that replacing added sugar with monk fruit could benefit health in several ways.

Monk fruit and granulated monk fruit sugar.

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Offers a Healthier Sugar Substitute

Monk fruit sweetener is made by crushing whole monk fruits and extracting their juice. Monk fruit gets its sweetness from a group of triterpene glycosides (sugar compounds) known as mogrosides. These are extracted from monk fruit juice and made into products like powdered and liquid sweeteners. 

Mogroside V is the sweetest and most abundant mogroside in monk fruit and is the main mogroside used in sugar alternative products.

In addition to providing monk fruit’s sweetness, mogrosides are responsible for its biological effects. Some research suggests that monk fruit may offer antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.

Useful for Reducing Calorie Intake

Sweeteners like table sugar, honey, corn syrup, and agave make up a significant part of most people's daily calorie intake.

For example, a two-teaspoon serving of granulated sugar contains 32.6 calories. Though this may not seem like much, the average American consumes around 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which equates to around 277 calories.

A diet high in added sugar can contribute to an energy surplus (consuming more calories than you burn) and subsequent weight gain. It can also promote the onset of health conditions like type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.

Monk fruit contains zero calories and is a blood sugar-friendly alternative to caloric sweeteners. Replacing table sugar and other caloric sweeteners with monk fruit can help cut back on calories, which could be especially beneficial for those trying to lose weight.  

Could Help Lower Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels 

Monk fruit doesn’t impact blood sugar and insulin levels in the same way as sweeteners like table sugar, honey, and corn syrup. For this reason, it’s a popular product among people with diabetes in countries like the U.S., China, and Japan.

Animal studies show that monk fruit extract has blood sugar and insulin-lowering properties. 

A study on rodents found that rats with induced type 2 diabetes who were fed a yogurt fortified with monk fruit extract showed greater improvements in blood sugar regulation and a significant decrease in insulin resistance compared with rats fed yogurt sweetened with table sugar.

Findings from other rodent studies also suggest monk fruit extract may have positive effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

However, a human study did not show as great of an effect. The study examined the effects of beverages sweetened with aspartame, monk fruit, and stevia on post-meal blood sugar and insulin responses in 30 healthy men. Researchers found minimal differences when compared to table sugar-sweetened beverages.

While some study results indicate monk fruit extract could be a smart sugar replacement for people with type 2 diabetes, more human research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

May Benefit Gut Health

Preliminary research suggests monk fruit mogrosides may act as prebiotics, or compounds that promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

An in vitro (test tube) study found gut bacteria could break down mogroside V into secondary mogrosides that have antioxidant properties. These secondary mogrosides promoted the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species. They also reduced disease-causing bacteria like Clostridium XIVa.

The study also suggested mogroside V may help increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like acetate, propionate, and butyrate. SCFAs are byproducts of the bacterial fermentation (breakdown) of prebiotics. They act as an energy source for the cells lining the colon called colonocytes and benefit health in several ways, such as maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier and regulating inflammation.

Although mogroside V shows promise as a prebiotic ingredient, research in humans is needed to confirm its potential gut health-promoting properties. 

Nutrition of Monk Fruit

One teaspoon (0.5 grams) of monk fruit powdered sweetener contains:

  • Calories: 0
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.5g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Added sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Risks of Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means the sweetener has been shown to be safe for its intended use in food.

Even though human studies investigating the health effects of monk fruit sweeteners are limited, monk fruit hasn’t been linked to any adverse side effects or health risks. 

However, certain ingredients often found in monk fruit products may carry some risks. For example, research suggests that erythritol, a sugar alcohol that’s commonly added to granulated and powdered monk fruit sweeteners, may have adverse effects on health. 

Recent study findings suggest that consuming erythritol may be linked to an increased risk of blood clotting, stroke, heart attack, and death in people at an elevated risk for developing heart disease.

When buying monk fruit products, you may want to avoid items that include erythritol. Make sure to check the ingredient list so you're aware of any additives you're consuming.

Tips for Consuming Monk Fruit

Monk fruit can be used in the same way as regular sugar. You can add it to beverages as well as sweet and savory recipes. 

The sweetener is safe to use at high temperatures and is a popular ingredient in baked goods like sweet breads, cookies, and cakes. 

There are many ways to add monk fruit into your diet. For example, you can use monk fruit in:

  • Your favorite cake, cookie, and pie recipes, as a sugar replacement
  • Cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, and other drinks for a hint of sweetness 
  • Your coffee, instead of sugar or sweetened creamer
  • Dishes like yogurt and oatmeal for extra flavor 
  • Sauces and marinades, in place of sweeteners like brown sugar and maple syrup

Monk fruit is available in several forms, including liquid monk fruit drops and granulated or powdered monk fruit sweeteners.

You should not use monk fruit for canning. There is not enough research on how monk fruit affects the pH of home-canned foods like jams. In theory, monk fruit could change the pH of canned goods, making them unsafe for consumption. For this reason, experts recommend avoiding monk fruit in home canning.

A Quick Review

Monk fruit is a natural sugar alternative derived from the Siraitia grosvenorii plant. It gets its sweetness from substances called mogrosides and is calorie-free.

Although some research suggests that monk fruit may offer benefits such as promoting healthy blood sugar levels, human studies investigating the health effects of monk fruit are limited.

Monk fruit is considered safe by the FDA and can be used as a calorie-free alternative to sweeteners like table sugar and corn syrup. 

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