Monk Fruit Sweetener – This Sugar Substitute Might Have Amazing Health Benefits According to New Study

Sugar substitutes have been all the rage, especially with many individuals going on a low carb or keto diet, or simply just wanting to cut back on the sugar. The overconsumption of sugar is the number one risk factor for harmful diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, chronic inflammation, and metabolic syndrome. Alternatives, such as monk fruit, are now being studied more than ever.

glass of sweet ice tea and monk fruit sweetener
Monk fruit sweetener comes from a small green fruit – source

It’s a fact of life, we love to eat food that tastes good. In some cases, this means overindulging our sweet tooth now and then. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could eat the treat with none of the side effects of sugar? Yeah of course but are these sugar substitutes safe?

Let’s find out. Keep reading to learn all about monk fruit, fact-checking if it is actually safe, or even good for you!

What is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, is a small round fruit that is native to southern China.

It has been used for centuries as a medical aid in the region, improving digestion, alleviating cold symptoms, and more. Recently, monk fruit has been used to sweeten.

How is Monk Fruit Sweetener Made?

Monk fruit sweetener comes from the juice of the fruit. The skin and seeds are removed, leaving only the pulp, from which juice is extracted. 

This fruit juice actually contains zero calories but has an intensely sweet taste. 

Monk Fruit Nutrition 

Monk fruit is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero calories, making it a good substitute for individuals looking to limit sugar or carbs.

Only a small amount of this sweetener is needed to sweeten a product, so while the process to extract is time-consuming, you do not need too much. While monk fruit does contain 1 carb per 1 gram, this carb is not absorbed by the body at all.

A 1 gram serving of monk fruit contains the following:

  • Calories: 0
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Monk Fruit Benefits

There might be amazing benefits to monk fruit yet to be discovered. Current benefits include that it does not affect blood sugar. It also helps promote weight loss, as you are replacing high-calorie sugar with a small amount of something 200 times sweeter with no absorption in the body.

This latest study found that animals fed this sweetener had better blood sugar regulation. It also found that there was an increase in healthy gut bacteria.

Not only that, there was less insulin resistance (a condition in which more insulin is needed to process food, eventually leading to diabetes). 

Further chemical analysis in this study even showed an improvement in pancreas cells responsible for storing and releasing insulin. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may even protect against cancer.

Monk Fruit Side Effects and Risks

There are actually no known side effects of monk fruit. The Food and Drug Administration has approved its use. When given in large amounts in studies, there was no negative effect.

However, monk fruit is a relatively new sweetener. There are no long-term studies on the effects of this sweetener. 

But remember, this is an ingredient that has been used for centuries safely, and consistently.

Is Monk Fruit Sugar Good for Diabetics?

In theory, yes! The sweet extract consists of units called mogrosides. These are metabolized by the body well, as they are not absorbed by the gut, meaning they do not contribute any calories to the diet.

It has no impact on blood sugar as well, and may even increase the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and insulin.

A limitation, however, is that most of what we know about monk fruit and its digestion comes from animal studies. While it is thought we have the same metabolism, this means further studies are required to see if the benefits also occur in humans. 

How Does Monk Fruit Compare to Other Sweeteners

Here are the nutrition facts of other common sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, honey, and white and brown sugar. 

Stevia Nutrition

Stevia extract comes from the leaves of a native South American herb, Stevia Rebaudiana. There are more than 11 sweet components called steviol glycosides extracted, with the most commonly used being stevioside and rebaudioside. It does not contain any calories or carbohydrates.

Erythritol Nutrition

It is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, and certain fermented foods, but it is not alcohol. It also has 0 calories but may cause gastrointestinal discomfort when eaten in large amounts.

Honey Nutrition

1 tablespoon, about 21 grams of honey, contains 64 calories, 17 grams of carbs, and 0.1 grams of protein. The sugar comes from 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

White Sugar Nutrition

1 tablespoon, about 12 grams of sugar, contains 46.2 calories, 12 grams of carbs, and 0 grams of protein or fat. Calories from sugar are sometimes called empty calories, as it has little to no nutritional value.

Brown Sugar Nutrition

1 tablespoon, about 13.8 grams of brown sugar, contains 52.5 calories, 13.5 grams of carbs, and 0 grams of protein or fat. Like white sugar, brown sugar has no substantial vitamins or minerals.

The Takeaway

Monk fruit sweetener is a sugar substitute that has been used for thousands of years. It is not absorbed by the body, therefore it has no impact on blood sugar.

The extract from this sweetener may have a positive impact on gut microbiota health and may even help regulate blood sugar.

Furthermore, recent studies have found great protection of pancreatic cells and even a reduction in inflammation that protects against cancer.

When compared to other sugars, monk fruit seems to be the best option, as it does not influence blood sugar, does not have calories, and does not cause gastrointestinal distress.

While more human studies are needed to see if it is safe for long-term use, it has been safely used for hundreds of years with no problems. In animal studies, even huge amounts, quantities that would never be reached in humans, had no adverse effect.

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