The Buzz: Monk Fruit Sugar

What’s the buzz?

Monk fruit sugar is the newest zero-calorie sweetener to have dieters salivating.

What does the science say?

Monk fruit, also referred to as “lo han guo,” is a small green gourd that grows in Southeast Asia. While this sweetener is newly on the radar for many Westerners, its use dates back to the 13th century in China. Monk fruit sweeteners are derived from pressing the juice from the fruit and are sold as either a liquid extract or in powdered or crystallized form. Between 150 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, monk fruit extract offers a high impact of sweetness in a very small dose. This natural sweetener contains zero calories per serving, which makes it an attractive sweetener for folks monitoring their weight.

Monk fruit “sugar” has a consistency similar to granulated sugar and is heat stable, so it can be used for both baking and cooking purposes. Monk fruit is commonly used as a substitution for sugar in  confections, soups, sauces and beverages. But because it is much sweeter than sugar, a 1-to-1 substitution may be too sweet. Experiment in the kitchen and find the ratio that fits your needs. Consider starting with 1/3 cup monk fruit sugar for 1 cup sugar.

Monk fruit sweeteners have been categorized as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2009.  Commercialized monk fruit sweeteners contain added ingredients such as erythritol, molasses, sugar, and dextrose. These ingredients may add calories or change the taste and cooking characteristics of this natural sweetener, so be wary. When purchasing monk fruit sugar, remember to read the label and look for pure lo han guo sweeteners with no additives.

But a caution  for people with an appetite for sweets, even zero-calorie natural sweeteners can trigger additional cravings for sweets. Using sugar substitutes can often decrease taste sensitivity. For instance, naturally sweet fresh fruits may seem unsatisfying, because your sweetness expectations may be higher from continuous use of alternative sweeteners. If this the case for you, try slowly reducing your use of sugar and other sweeteners in order to establish a new norm of sweetness for your palate.

What’s the takeaway?

Monk fruit sugar is emerging as a popular zero-calorie alternative sweetener that can help lower total calorie intake. When purchasing, read the ingredient label and purchase pure lo han guo extract. Remember that a little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it when substituting for sugar, and don’t view it as a free pass to eat sweet-tasting food all day long.

To learn more about monk fruit sugar, click here.