All About Monk Fruit: A Refined Sugar Alternative
Medically reviewed by Phoowanai Ektheerachaisakul, RDN, CDN, CNSC
Monk fruit, known as Siraitia grosvenorii or luo han guo, is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family of gourds. It is native to Southern China and is mainly used for its fruit extract, taken from the fruit, which is sweeter than sugar, after it has been dried.
Monk fruit is often considered a healthier alternative to sugar or artificial sweeteners. Evidence suggests it may be an excellent sugar substitute because it can positively affect one's health. This article discusses the possible health benefits and side effects of consuming monk fruit.
It’s Not Sugar, but Is Monk Fruit Healthy?
Monk fruit can be an excellent alternative to sugar because some research has found that it may offer several health benefits when consumed regularly. Some possible health benefits include:
Antioxidants: Antioxidants balance out unstable molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals are not balanced, they can drive widespread inflammation due to their ability to damage cells and DNA. Animal research on monk fruit has shown that it contains some plant compounds, such as mogrosides, which can reduce inflammation in the body.
Anti-cancer: Though research is ongoing, some studies have found that monk fruit may possess the ability to inhibit cancer growth in humans because of its compound mogroside IVe.
Diabetes-safe: Monk fruit is sweet, but it does not contain any calories or carbs. Research in mice has found that it may be a safe alternative for a person who has diabetes because it does not affect blood sugar levels. More human research is necessary to confirm if these effects transfer from animals to humans.
Weight management: Because monk fruit doesn’t have any calories or carbohydrates, it can help to manage weight in people with overweight or obesity by allowing them to cut out sugar while still having sweet foods or beverages.
Though some studies have found monk fruit to be a good sugar alternative, more research is necessary to determine the long-term effects of monk fruit consumption and how the compounds of the fruit work in the body to provide these health benefits.
The benefits attributed to monk fruit stem from its compound, mogroside IVe. It is a type of triterpenoid glycoside that can be extracted from monk fruit and other sweet fruits. Triterpenoid glycosides are bioactive plant compounds that can have different effects on human health.
Read Next:Artificial Sweeteners and Type 2 Diabetes
Side Effects of Monk Fruit
Monk fruit is considered a food additive, which is any substance or chemical added to food during the preparation process. As a food additive, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates it.
The FDA has recognized monk fruit as generally regarded as safe (GRAS). This means that they have investigated its good and bad effects and found that it is a safe alternative to sugar. It is regulated based on its mogroside V content.
Research has determined that there are no potential adverse effects associated with consuming monk fruit sweeteners, and children and those who are pregnant are also safe to consume the product. That said, because its popularity is relatively new and human research studies on its effects are lacking, the safety of long-term use has yet to be determined.
The research surrounding the side effects of monk fruit is limited. However, an older animal study published in 2006 found that, even when consumed in large amounts over the course of a month, there are no known side effects associated with monk fruit consumption.
Related:Study: Daily Artificial Sweetener Intake May Not Increase Diabetes Risk in Healthy Adults
Monk Fruit vs. Stevia
Stevia is another sweetener extracted from a plant. It is made from stevia plant leaves. Though monk fruit and stevia are considered natural sweeteners, they are not the same. Aside from the noticeable differences, such as which part of the plant is used to make the sweetener, the compound also differs. In monk fruit, it is mogrosides, whereas stevia contains a different type of glycoside known as steviol glycosides.
The chart below compares the two sweeteners based on their:
Possible health benefits
Possible side effects
200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar
Reduce inflammation Inhibit cancer growth
Not yet known
Liquid Powders Added into foods
As much as 300 times sweeter than sugar
Low blood pressure
Liquid Powders Added into foods
Though there is no daily recommended intake for monk fruit, research has found that people should not consume more than 12 milligrams of stevia extract per kilogram of body weight daily. This number may vary slightly depending on a person’s weight. Regardless of how much a person consumes, they should always reach for the highest-quality sweetener.
Many health food products will maintain they are sugar-free or have very little sugar but may add other artificial sweeteners to make up for it. Those can include sugar alcohols or natural sweeteners. It’s important to read the label of these types of food because sugar alcohols and some artificial sweeteners are detrimental to your overall health.
Related:Does Stevia Cause Cancer?
Monk Fruit Daily Serving
There is no official recommendation for daily servings of monk fruit. According to the FDA, monk fruit likely doesn’t require a daily recommended intake because consuming excessive amounts of the sweetener have yet to show any ill side effects or adverse health events.
That said, you should consume everything in moderation, and if you notice any changes after consuming a lot of monk fruit, contact a healthcare provider. Research surrounding the extract is still limited in humans.
Monk fruit can be used anywhere a person would typically use sugar, such as:
Baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, muffins, or cupcakes
Beverages, including coffee or tea and homemade lemonades or sweet tea
Added to fruits or other dairy products such as yogurt to make them sweeter
Alternatives to Monk Fruit
There are many other sweeteners that you can use in place of monk fruit if you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for you based on cost or availability.
That said, most other alternatives will contain some calories, carbs, and sugar, so they will have some effect on blood sugar levels. Some possible alternatives include:
Choosing the right sweetener for you will depend on your current health status, goals, and personal preferences.
Learn More:The Pros and Cons of Artificial Sweeteners
Though research in humans is limited, the studies examining monk fruit so far have found that it is a safe and viable sugar substitute. It may also provide several health benefits for those who consume it regularly, such as weight management, and anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
It's important to note that, though ruled safe by the FDA, you should still consume everything in moderation. Long-term studies still need to examine the possible negative effects of monk fruit consumption. If you consume monk fruit and notice any changes in your gastrointestinal health or experience any other side effects, contact your healthcare provider.
The chances of experiencing adverse effects are low, so enjoying monk fruit as a sugar alternative can be a great way to limit sugar intake while still enjoying your favorite sweet foods and beverages.