Monk fruit or monk fruit: what is it, benefits and disadvantages

Monk fruit has made a name for itself among healthy options for sweetening. The motives? It is suitable for diabetics, does not provide calories and has a sweetening capacity 200 times more powerful than sugar.

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa on November 01, 2021.

Last update: November 01, 2021

When it comes to replacing white sugar, there are more and more alternatives every day. From honey, agave syrup or panela, to the last to appear, such as erythritol and stevia. Now another plant from China is added: the monk fruit.

Although it is still difficult to find its use, gradually spreads into sugary drinks and other products. Perhaps you have already tried one of them. But if you do not know the monk fruit, we will tell you much more in the following article.

What is the monk fruit?

The monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) is he fruit of a creeper plant of the cucurbit family. It originates from the south of China, where it is known by the name of luo han guo. It is believed that its name derives from the fact that its first cultivators were Buddhist monks arhats.

The first mentions date back to the 13th century in the records of Chinese monks from the Guilin region. It was used (and still is) as a traditional remedy for colds, sore throats and constipation. However, given the difficulty of its cultivation, the plant did not spread to other parts of the country.

In the 20th century it became known in England and it is not until the 1980s when the first findings on its sweetening capacity are reported.

The fruit is small and round (about 5 to 7 centimeters in diameter). The skin is tough, fine, and covered by fine hairs. Its color is between yellow, green and brown. The interior is eaten fresh and the peel is used to make infusions.

The highlight of its flavor is the sweetness which is enhanced by talking about the powder and the liquid extract of the fruit. The main responsible for this property are mogrosides, glycoside compounds that are extracted from different plants and are used as substitutes for sugar.

Replacements for refined sugar are more and more. The monk’s fruit would bring a natural alternative to the market.

Benefits and strengths of the monk fruit

Although its use in China dates back many centuries, we are faced with a sweetener that It has not been as studied as others that exist on the market. A large part of the analyzes have been carried out on animals and, as it is a new product, the long-term effects have not been tested.

However, taking this into account, it is possible to list a number of strengths and advantages that arise from the use of the extract of the monk fruit.

It is suitable for diabetics

The American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Medical Care for Diabetes state that “For those people who are used to products sweetened with sugar, non-nutritive sweeteners can be a good alternative to sugar, honey, agave syrup”.

Although the use of these does not seem to have an impact on glucose regulation, it does facilitate lower calorie and carbohydrate intake. Therefore, they are a good option if sweetened foods and drinks are consumed.

However, this same body strongly encourages you to decrease your intake of sweetened foods and beverages. It suggests opting for alternatives without these additions.

It does not add calories or flavor

The extract from monk fruit does not provide calories or carbohydrates. This is why it is usually one of the sweeteners chosen by people who follow diets very low in carbohydrates, such as ketogenic.

In addition, its flavor is quite neutral and, when exposed to heat, it does not lose properties. So it’s a perfect sugar replacement for both sweetening and cooking and baking.

It does not usually lead to digestive problems

At first, there are no known annoying effects derived from its ingestion. Some sweeteners of the same type can cause gas, bloating or diarrhea in some people.

Has beneficial properties

The composition of the monk fruit it is characterized by the presence of carbohydrates and some minerals. But it also contains other components such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, glycosides and terpenes that are at the base of its medicinal activity.

Apart from the properties recognized by the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, there are other studies about its benefits. As they point out in the magazine Future Medicial Chemistry, these are some of the most prominent:

  • The mogrosids have shown ability to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood in diabetic mice.
  • The fruit of the monk is able to counteract the action of free radicals and prevent the peroxidation of lipids. This is related to a lower risk of certain health problems such as atherosclerosis or inflammatory diseases.
  • The mogrosides exert an anti-inflammatory activity, since they prevent the release of some molecules such as prostaglandins.

Different ways to use it as a sweetener

The whole fruit has a very short shelf life and is still it is difficult to find it far from the countries where it is cultivated. For this reason, whole fresh fruit is rarely consumed and is usually used more in infusions.

The sweetener is made from an extract of the dried fruit. This can be used in any type of food and drink, either hot or cold. At the time of dosing it must be taken into account that it is between 150 and 250 times sweeter than table sugar.

You can test it in the following situations:

  • In coffee, tea or any type of infusion as a substitute for sugar.
  • In soft drinks, lemonades and juices.
  • To sweeten dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, smoothies, or ice cream.
  • To replace sugar in the preparation of any type of sweet and dessert: cookies, cakes, puddings. In this case, it is necessary to take into account that the texture, taste and appearance may be different.

Possible downsides of monk fruit

Most regulatory bodies state that the monk fruit it is a safe product and suitable even for pregnant women and children. This is the case of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Its use is allowed as a substitute for sugar and so far no harmful effects have been observed from its intake. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that it is a very new product and its long-term effects have not been studied.

The most prominent risk could come in the form of an allergic reaction. People with allergies to plants of the same family (pumpkin, watermelon or melon), perhaps should be more careful with their consumption.

Monk fruit is delicate, it ferments very quickly, and its cultivation is problematic. These are some of the reasons that explain the difficulty of finding it in stores and its higher price.

The extract from monk fruit it’s a interesting sweetener for diabetics. But some of the products in which it is used may add other sweeteners that do affect blood glucose.

Diabetics are forced to look for alternatives to traditional sugar. For them the fruit of the monk could be useful.

Final thoughts on the monk fruit

The monk’s fruit o monk fruit It is a natural sweetener from a plant grown in China. In recent years it has gained fame as a healthier sugar substitute thanks to some of its advantages. It is a safe additive, suitable for very low carbohydrate diets.

However, its cultivation and exportation are small compared to the increase in demand for this product. For this reason, it is difficult to find in most stores and is often used in the food industry to sweeten beverages.

It must be taken into account that in the industry it is a very new product and that its benefits have not been tested in humans. Therefore, the best advice is to use it moderately and in small quantities.

It might interest you …