Monk fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo, Buddha fruit and Swingle fruit, is a small round fruit in the melon family, that is native to Southern China and parts of Southeast Asia. The fruit is not often eaten on its own, but has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a digestive aid, and for colds. Buddhist Monks were thought to be the first to cultivate it for use medicinally, hence the name. More recently it has become popular for use as a natural, calorie-free sweetener.
Ripe monk fruit is picked, and the seeds and skin are removed before the fruit is crushed to release the juices. This extract is then dried into a concentrated powder which can be used in foods, beverages and health supplements as a sweetener. During this process the fruit’s natural fructose is separated from unique antioxidants called mogrosides, and only the mogrosides are used, so there is no fructose present in monk fruit sweeteners.
Monk fruit sweetener is super sweet – ranging from 100 to 250 times sweeter than table sugar, depending on growing conditions and region, but has zero calories. You can purchase monk fruit as a table sweetener to add to baking or use as you would sugar or honey, but generally it is then mixed with erythritol or inulin to balance out the intense sweetness, and add bulk to make it easier to use in place of sugar in recipes and as a table sweetener. When used in foods, beverages and supplements generally just the monk fruit extract is used.
The main reason monk fruit sweetener is used in supplements, food and beverages is the fact that it has zero calories and will not impact blood sugar. So, it’s safe for diabetics and great for anyone trying to keep blood sugar stable. When used in powdered supplements, it also has a much softer taste profile than stevia, another natural zero-calorie sweetener that works well in beverages, supplements and foods. Stevie can be perceived by some as having a bitter, metallic after-taste, but monk fruit does not. In many cases the combination of monk fruit and stevia will neutralize the stevia aftertaste, but monk fruit can also be used on its own without stevia. It is significantly more expensive however.
Monk fruit also has other health benefits. The mongrosides are antioxidants, so they will help prevent cellular damage and have anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Monk Fruit Safety
Monk fruit sweeteners have been approved by the US FDA since 2010, and are also approved in Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan. In Canada they are approved as a table top sweetener, but are not as yet approved to be added to foods or beverages. Canadian supplement manufacturers can use monk fruit as a sweetener in natural health products if they have Health Canada approval in the form of an NPN (Natural Product Number or Licence).
Niyama currently uses monk fruit extract as a sweetener in all of our powder products. Our Green Energy and After Practice both use a soft blend of monk fruit and stevia, and our Plant Proteins use monk fruit only.
For more info on monk fruit extract check out: https://foodinsight.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monk-fruit-sweeteners/