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Diet Q&A: What's Monk Fruit and Should I Be Eating It?

Another natural, zero-calorie sweetener has hit the shelves, but is it actually good for you? We consulted an expert to find out.
monk fruit

Added sugar has become the enemy, so to speak. And it’s nearly impossible to escape because it’s found in almost everything we eat. As a result, we’re constantly searching for ways to get around the sugar trap. Stevia has become the forerunner in the sugar substitute realm, but another natural, zero-caloie sweetner called monk fruit has now entered the sugar substitute scene. 

Should you make the switch? Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia (a stevia and monk fruit sweetened zero-calorie soda), explains that it's all a matter of taste.

What is monk fruit?

Monk fruit is a round, green fruit grown on lush vines in small farms in the sub-tropical climate of Asian hillsides, where temperate conditions and elevation are ideal. The fruit is harvested by hand, then crushed and infused with hot water to release its natural sweetness.

How does it compare to stevia?  

Just like stevia, monk fruit is about 200x as sweet as sugar, but contains no calories and has no effect on blood glucose levels, making it an ideal fit for our natural, zero-calorie sodas. Despite its name, monk fruit contains no fructose. In Zevia, we have found that monk fruit is a perfect complement to stevia, as it adds sweetness and also removes the bitter aftertaste that some consumers perceive with stevia.

What are its health benefits?  

The FDA classifies monk fruit as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), like stevia. No negative side effects have been reported.

Traditionally called Luo Han Guo, monk fruit has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine.  Some studies, like one published in the British Journal of Nutrition, show that it may protect the kidneys from diabetic damage, help manage cholesterol, improve liver function, and decrease blood sugar.

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