Looking for a way to get sweetness but without the calories and health concerns that come with regular sugar. Why don’t you turn to zero or low-calorie sugar substitutes?
There are several FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved sugar substitutes available on the market. While you may be familiar with stevia, there is a lesser-known FDA-approved sugar alternative you may have not heard of, called monk fruit. Both stevia and monk fruit come from plants and are commonly used to sweeten foods and drinks. One of the greatest benefits of these sweeteners is that they add almost no calories to your meal.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Grown in Southeast Asia, monk fruit is a small, green gourd that looks like a melon. It was used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century, which explains the fruit’s unusual name. Because the fresh monk fruit doesn’t store well and isn’t appealing, it’s usually dried and used to make medicinal teas. Monk fruit sweeteners are made from the fruit’s extract, which is further blended with other ingredients to balance the sweetness.
Monk fruit sweetener can be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. It contains no calories, sodium, carbohydrates or fat. This explains why it has become a popular sweetener alternative for manufacturers who make low-calorie products and for the consumers who eat them. Because monk fruit extract is heat-stable, it can be used in baked goods as well as to sweeten your natural meal-replacement shakes, or in sauces or salad dressing.
What Does Monk Fruit Sweetener Taste Like?
According to the World Health Organization, individuals should restrict consumption of sugars to no more than 10% of daily caloric intake. The goal is to lower this level to 5% or less for optimal health. However, substituting sugar with the artificial sweeteners available on the market does not appear to have a favourable clinical effect, which means that a more natural option like monk fruit could be a better choice.
Because monk fruit is sweeter than sugar, you don’t sacrifice flavour in the switch. Some manufacturers blend monk fruit sweetener with other natural products, such as inulin or erythritol in an effort to minimize the sweetness. Similar to stevia monk fruit sweeteners are found in powdered or granulate form.
What Are the Benefits of Monk Fruit?
The monk fruit extract has a long history of medicinal use. Its benefits include:
May Promote Weight Loss
As mentioned above, monk fruit contains no calories, carbohydrates or fat, so it can be a useful addition to those who want to lose weight. If you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake, a great way to achieve that is by substituting monk fruit sweeteners where you would typically use sugar like in coffees or breakfast oats. Low-calorie treats and desserts can also be created by using monk fruit sweeteners.
Safe for Those With Diabetes
Monk fruit doesn’t affect blood sugar, so it’s a safe choice for people with diabetes. However, it’s important that you read the product label to make sure that your choice doesn’t also contain sugar or other ingredients that could affect insulin sensitivity.
Can Aid With Cough
In traditional Chinese Medicine, monk fruit has been used as a cough suppressant and as a remedy for sore throats. To enjoy this benefit, consider using monk fruit extract in your sage tea, which is another natural remedy for coughs and sore throats. Another option is to try a cup of cough-suppressing thyme tea sweetened with monk fruit extract.
Is Monk Fruit Sweetener the Same as Stevia?
No, it’s not. Monk fruit sweetener is extracted from the monk fruit while stevia sweetener is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. However, these two natural sweeteners share some very important characteristics other than their extraordinary sweet taste.
Both, stevia monk fruit sweeteners, are considered non-nutritive products, so they provide no nutritional benefit. They contain zero calories, zero sugar, zero carbs and no artificial ingredients and are safe to consume even by children and pregnant women. Both are considered good choices for those on Keto as they contribute no carbohydrates to a diet. And because they each have glycemic indexes of zero and neither raise blood sugar levels, they are also safe for diabetics.
Monk Fruit Side Effects and Safety Concerns
In China (where monk fruit has been cultivated since the 13th century), monk fruit has a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. There is no evidence of any dangers or side effects associated with the use of monk fruit – even when consumed in large amounts. The FDA has said that monk fruit extract is GRAS (generally recognizes as safe) when used as a sugar substitute.
Note that although these extracts are considered safe for use as sweeteners, any food substance can cause an adverse reaction if a person is sensitive to it. Share any concerns you may have about the adverse reactions with your health care provider.