Though I seldom used it, I became acquainted with pure monk fruit as a low carb sweetener many years ago. At the time, my favorite low carb sweeteners of choice were xylitol, erythritol, and stevia.
For me, xylitol and erythritol were creating gut issues and my hubby hated the aftertaste of stevia. After doing some research, I wanted some better and more natural alternatives. I went back to raw honey and pure maple syrup.
As far as a natural low carb sweetener, monk fruit was a logical choice. I was so disappointed to discover that the brand of monk fruit I had used in the past was less than clean (a common occurence I found out).
The only 100% pure monk fruit powder I know of is made by Julian’s Bakery* and that is the brand I use daily.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit – also known as siraitia grosvenorii, lo han kuo, or luo han guo – is a gourd which grows on 3 to 5-feet long vines and which is native to southern China and northern Thailand.
Lo han guo was used by Buddhist monks in the 13th century. They first mentioned it in some of their texts (hence the “monk” name).
Monk fruit is 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar (depending on the literature you read) and has traditionally been used both as a sweetener and in Chinese medicine.
The plant is not easy to find in the wild. For this reason, lo han kuo has been cultivated for hundreds of years. It is still a difficult plant to grow and import (which explains its price).
Traditionally, mature fruits are cut open and the seeds removed. The green fruits are dried and turn brown during this process.
Dried monk fruits are sold in this manner in many Chinese herbal stores.
I discovered on Wikipedia that the manufacturing process for monk fruit was patented in “1995 by Procter & Gamble. The patent states that natural luo han guo has many interfering flavors, which render it useless for general applications, and describes a process to remove them. The offending compounds are sulfur-containing volatile substances such as hydrogen disulfide, methional, methionol, dimethylsulfide and methylmercaptan, which are formed from amino acids that contain sulfur, such as methionine, S-methylmethionine, cystine, and cysteine.” (1)
In traditional medicine, the Chinese used monk fruit to treat coughs and sore throats. Furthermore, the Chinese believe that lo han guo is a longevity aid. (1)
In modern days, many studies have been performed to further study the medicinal properties of monk fruit.
The continuous use of a compound made of lo han guo showed some promise as an antihistamine (in mice) and could prove useful in the treatment of allergies. (2)
Lo han guo extract is a low glycemic index sweetener with a beneficial role in insulin production and on diabetics. (3) (4) (5) (6) (9) Furthermore, it has some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (7) (9) (14) (15) (16) (17)
In mice, monk fruit had a beneficial on sport performance: “the data showed that SGFE can extend the swimming time of the mice, as well as increasing the liver and muscle glycogen contents, but it decreases the blood lactic acid and serum urea nitrogen levels. These results indicated that SGFE had significant anti-fatigue effects on mice and these effects were dose-dependent.” (8)
If this was not enough, mogrosides** contained in monk fruit have shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties (9) (10) (13) and cucurbitacins** showed some promise in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. (11) (12)
**Note: biochemical compounds found in monk fruit as well as some other plants.
The Problem with Monk Fruit
As I already mentioned early, monk fruit is hard to grow and it must be imported. For these reasons, it doesn’t come cheap.
In my experience, most of the products sold as “monk fruit” contain some fillers:
- Dextrose is a form of glucose derived from starches (most often corn, as in GMO corn). It is widely used in pre-packaged foods because it is plentiful and therefore affordable. It is high glycemic.
- Maltodextrin inulin is a polysaccharide (a carb) made from starch (sounds familiar). It is most often a derivative of GMO corn, potatoes, rice, or wheat. It is regularly used as a food additive because it is cheap. For further information on the dangers of maltodextrin, Dr. Axe has a great article.
- Calcium silicate is used as an anticaking agent. It is not a benign product despite the fact we are told that it is too small an amount to be concerned! I would suggest you do your own research.
- Erythritol is a sugar alcohol which many use daily (I used to be one such person). Even though I have heard that erythritol is the mildest of all sugar alcohol, I know many who cannot tolerate it. It causes some digestive upset (this happened to me). It is highly processed usually from corn although you can find some made from birch. If you are interested here is an article from Dr. Axe.
Pure Monk Fruit
Needless to say, I was very excited to find Julian’s Bakery pure monk powder.
I won’t lie it is pricey (around $30 for a container). However, despite the fact I use pure monk fruit daily, I have had my container for at over five months now. I use very little and each serving costs around .30 cents.
I wholeheartedly recommend this product.
Note: I found a liquid form which is much harder to find and is more expensive per servings but is easy to squirt in cold drinks. I have not purchased it in a while since the store I bought it from no longer carries it.
Pros of using pure monk fruit
- It does not impact blood sugar levels. It is truly low glycemic.
- It is minimally processed and is a natural food with a robust track record over many centuries.
- It appears to have beneficial medicine properties
- It is considered a zero calorie sweetener.
- No known side effects.
- It is safe for children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Cons of using pure monk fruit
- The price.
- It is not readily available in all stores and most often it will need to be purchased online.
Where Can I Buy Pure Monk?
I have not been able to find pure monk fruit in the grocery stores I frequent…yet.
Since I am an Amazon Prime Member and I get free shipping, I have purchased it from Amazon.
*Last Minute Discovery
Good news, I discovered that other brands have caught on. I have found another brand of pure monk fruit (in powder and liquid form). It is cheaper than Julian’s Bakery but since I have not tried it I cannot speak for its quality, taste, and purity.
I plan on trying the liquid form very soon.
Sources for Pure Monk Fruit:
- (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siraitia_grosvenorii
- (2) Effect of Lo Han Kuo (Siraitia grosvenori Swingle) on nasal rubbing and scratching behavior in ICR mice.
- (3) Insulin secretion stimulating effects of mogroside V and fruit extract of luo han kuo (Siraitia grosvenori Swingle) fruit extract.
- (4) Antidiabetic effect of long-term supplementation with Siraitia grosvenori on the spontaneously diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rat.
- (5) Effect of a Siraitia grosvenori extract containing mogrosides on the cellular immune system of type 1 diabetes mellitus mice.
- (6) Triterpene glycosides of Siraitia grosvenori inhibit rat intestinal maltase and suppress the rise in blood glucose level after a single oral administration of maltose in rats.
- (7) Antioxidant effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress induced by palmitic acid in mouse insulinoma NIT-1 cells.
- (8) Effects of Siraitia grosvenorii Fruits Extracts on Physical Fatigue in Mice.
- (9) Biotransformation of Mogrosides from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle by Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
- (10) A new antibacterial compound from Luo Han Kuo fruit extract (Siraitia grosvenori).
- (11) Growth inhibitory effect of Cucurbitacin E on breast cancer cells.
- (12) Anticarcinogenic activity of natural sweeteners, cucurbitane glycosides, from Momordica grosvenori.
- (13) Inhibitory Effects of Cucurbitane Glycosides and Other Triterpenoids from the Fruit of Momordica grosvenori on Epstein−Barr Virus Early Antigen Induced by Tumor Promoter 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate.
- (14) Anti-inflammatory effect of Momordica grosvenori Swingle extract through suppressed LPS-induced upregulation of iNOS and COX-2 in murine macrophages.
- (15) Anti-inflammatory activities of mogrosides from Momordica grosvenori in murine macrophages and a murine ear edema model.
- (16) Antioxidant effect of mogrosides against oxidative stress induced by palmitic acid in mouse insulinoma NIT-1 cells.
- (17) The antioxidant activities of natural sweeteners, mogrosides, from fruits of Siraitia grosvenori.