Monk sugar is the dehydrated juice of a fruit identified as Siraitia Grosvenor.
The fruit is native to southeast Asia and is known as Luo han guo or monk fruit. It is a green gourd that looks like a small melon. The monk fruit name is conferred on the fruit apparently because Buddhist monks in the 13th century used the juice as a sweetener. The juice is reported to be from 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Monk Fruit is naturally a low-calorie sweetener. Monk fruit sugar is made in four general steps:
- The fruit is crushed, releasing the juice
- It is then mixed with hot water and filtered to reveal the fruit infusion
- The sweet infusion is dried to create a powder known as monk fruit sugar
Because it is often sweeter than sugar, monk fruit sweetener is blended with other sweeteners that are less sweet than sugar. Examples are stevia, sugar alcohols, sweet-tasting carbohydrates, and artificial sweeteners.
Stevia is derived from the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. The plant is native to Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, where natives have been chewing on stevia leaves for hundreds of years. Stevia is 30 to 150 times sweeter than sugar. There are products on the market that are all natural combinations of stevia and monk fruit sweetener.
Another popular combination is monk fruit sweetener and a sugar alcohol like erythritol. Sugar alcohols are so-called because their chemical properties are similar to sugar and alcohol. A Japanese company has patented a specific monk fruit-erythritol combination. Because the erythritol is fermented and derived from non-GMO corn, there is no gastric disturbance. Their product is granulated and looks exactly like table sugar. It is advertised as an all-natural, heat stable, no-calorie, direct 1:1 substitute for table sugar in cooking and baking. It is diabetic-safe.
There are other no-calorie sweetener brands readily available online that are blends of monk fruit sweetener with other sugar alcohols like xylitol.
Another all-natural combination being marketed is monk fruit sweetener blended with a sweet-tasting starchy carbohydrate like inulin. Inulin is found in some fruits, vegetables, and herbs like wheat, onions, bananas, leeks, asparagus, and chicory root. Inulin isn’t digested in the stomach. It actually stays in the intestine and helps beneficial bacteria to grow. As such it functions like a prebiotic. The product is an all-natural, no-calorie, diabetic-safe sweetener.
There are other combinations of monk fruit sweeteners with artificial sweeteners available online. While these combinations are zero calorie products, they are not natural and all have negative side effects.
Laboratory-made artificial sweeteners abd their trade names
- Acesulfame potassium (Acesulfame K, Ace K, ACE)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal-Measure, Canderel, Benevia)
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, NectaSweet, Sucaryl, Sucron, SugarTwin, Sweet 10)
- Sucralose (Splenda and Nevella)
Synthetic Sweetener and Weight Gain
All synthetic sweeteners are known to cause weight gain despite being low or no-calorie products. Many of them include GMO products. The literature is loaded with reports of side effects such as: allergic reactions, diarrhea, dizziness, eyesight impairment, hallucinations, headaches, hives, kidney problems, memory loss, mood problems, migraine trigger, muscle aches, nausea, skin irritation, stomach cramps, thyroid function depression, and vomiting.
Benefits of Monk Fruit Sugar
- Reduces calories
- It doesn’t affect blood sugar
- It’s anti-inflammatory
- It can help fight cancer
- It doesn’t cause cavities
Is Monk Fruit Safe?
Monk fruit sweetener is relatively new to the market, as the FDA only recognized it as generally safe in 2010. Sweetener blends of monk fruit sweeteners are safe sugar alternatives. Combinations with artificial chemicals are not.