We know that sugar is not good for you but this has not stopped sugar consumption rising. Finding a healthier sweet alternative to sugar is something of a priority given that the majority of us have a sweet tooth. There are many artificial substitutes on the market but many of these contain harmful ingredients. Monk fruit sweetener on the other hand may offer a genuinely healthy alternative to sugar letting you enjoy all the flavor of ordinary cane sugar but with far fewer calories and negative health effects.
What is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit known scientifically as momordica grosvenorii possesses various compounds which are extracted to make a natural sweetener which is actually around 300 times sweeter than cane sugar. Coupled with the fact that it is calorie free and does not affect blood sugar levels, this may be just the sweetener you have been looking for.
It has actually been used as a natural sweetener for many years in various parts of the world especially its native South East Asia. It has only recently become more readily accessible to people living in the U.S.
As well as its natural sweetening abilities, monk fruit has a variety of health benefits. It is extremely high in antioxidants and is regarded as a longevity fruit due to its anti-aging potential. It has also traditionally been used to treat respiratory problems and as a cough remedy because of its expectorant properties. Other uses for the monk fruit include treating diabetes and constipation.
Monk Fruit Facts
Monk fruit which is also known as luo han guo grows upon a vine and is a member of the gourd family – cucurbitaceae. Its common name was derived from the monks who harvested the fruit in the mountains of Southern China many centuries ago.
The fruit is rarely found growing wild and was originally harvested in the mountains of the southern Chinese provinces. The plant thrives in mountainous regions with plenty of mist and shade.
The fruit is also known as Buddha fruit because the areas in which it was harvested are home to numerous Buddhist temples. Other common names like Arhat fruit or Lohan are also associated with the religion and refer to a person who has reached nirvana.
The fruit was not brought to America until the early part of the 20th century. A group of people belonging to the National Geographic Society were responsible for bringing it to America and later named it siraitis grosvenorii in honor of the president at the time – Gilbert Grosvenor.
These days the Chinese authorities have banned the export of the fruit from the country. Any fruit and its derivative products have to be grown, harvested and produced in China. Because of these limitations and the complicated process involved in extracting mogrosides, any monk fruit supplements are expensive to produce.
Monk fruit when fresh does actually contain carbohydrates and calories but they are rarely consumed fresh. After they have been dried, they are regarded as a calorie free food because the trace amount of glucose and fructose are almost insignificant.
Why is Monk Fruit so Sweet?
Unlike most fruit, monk fruit does not get its sweetness from natural sugars. It contains potent antioxidants known scientifically as mogrosides which the body metabolizes differently to natural sugars. These mogrosides are what gives monk fruit its incredibly sweet flavor despite containing no calories at all.
What are the Health Benefits of Monk Fruit?
1. Antioxidant Properties
I have already mentioned that monk fruit contains potent antioxidant compounds called mongosides. As well as giving the fruit its intense sweetness, these compounds can help protect the body from oxidative stress which plays a major role in so many diseases.
Studies indicate that mogrosides can have a significant positive effect by inhibiting oxidative damage to the DNA and cells. By substituting your normal sugar with monk fruit sweetener, you can get all the flavor you need but also combat the damage done by harmful free radicals. (1)
2. Reduced Risk of Diabetes and Obesity
When people consume sugar in the levels that many Americans do these days, the effects can be devastating. The average American consumes in the region of 130 pounds each year causing a surge in obesity and diabetes.
Unlike so many artificial sweeteners, monk fruit does not contain harmful chemicals and does not affect blood sugar like many natural sugar substitutes.
Switching to monk fruit extract to sweeten your drinks and food can help people get their weight under control and may help treat obesity. (2)
3. Anti-Inflammatory Actions
Monk fruit contains excellent anti-inflammatory properties meaning it can help treat a range of inflammatory conditions. It has traditionally been used in China to cool down the body’s temperature where heat was caused by fever and other sickness.
Monk fruit could be used as one of the weapons against inflammation. Several studies indicate that these anti-inflammatory properties give it positive effects against various conditions. (3)
4) Cancer Prevention
Many studies have demonstrated that the natural sweet compounds found in monk fruit have an anti-cancer effect. Some studies indicate it can inhibit the growth of skin and breast tumors while others show it provides proteins with anticancer actions. (4) (5) (6)
5. Oral Health and Antimicrobial Benefits
Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics because they have been overused. Fortunately, many natural products possess excellent antimicrobial properties that can help ward off infection.
According to studies, monk fruit possesses excellent antimicrobial properties. Research indicates that it is especially effective against the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease and tooth decay. (7)
Monk fruit was traditionally used in its native China to help prevent and treat diabetes. The fruit and its extracts can help keep blood sugar under control and studies have also revealed that it has antioxidant properties which have a positive effect on pancreatic cells. This allows more effective insulin secretion and could benefit people with diabetes a great deal. (8)
These abilities to treat and control symptoms of diabetes are linked to the high mogroside content of the fruit.
Using monk fruit sweeteners as a substitute for regular sugar makes sense for those with diabetes or at risk of diabetes since it has a low glycemic index. This means that diabetics can enjoy its flavor without worrying about the adverse effects it may have. (9)
7. Other Benefits
Animal studies have revealed that monk fruit extract could improve exercise time and decrease feelings of fatigue. (10) There is also evidence that monk fruit and its extracts has natural antihistamine properties that can help fight allergies. (11)
How to Find Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk fruit itself does not stay fresh long before perishing and since it is only harvested in China so your options are limited unless you happen to live in the right part of China. For the rest of us, the next best option to enjoy the flavor and benefits of the fruit is to buy it in extract form or monk fruit sweeteners.
Just how sweet your sweetener is depends on the level of mogrosides found in your sweetener. The percentage of mogrosides vary between different manufacturers so check the labels carefully. You can find monk fruit sweetener online or in certain stores.
Have you ever used monk fruit sweetener and what did you think of it? How does it compare to other natural sweeteners and would you recommend it?