Monk fruit has increased in popularity over the past couple of years. It's often used as an alternative sweetener and lots of people think it's a better choice than sugar—but is it actually healthy? We dug into the science to answer your questions.

Andrea Mathis, M.S., R.D.
September 30, 2020
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Monk fruit has increased in popularity over the past couple of years. It's often used as an alternative sweetener, and has been classified as healthy by the majority of the population—but is it actually healthy?

What is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit, also called luo han guo, is a small green melon that was cultivated for centuries by Buddhist monks—hence its unique name. This fruit is native to southern China and northern Thailand, and most of the world's monk fruit is still grown in that region.

Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit and crushing it to collect the juice. The juice is then dried into a concentrated powder and used to sweeten several foods and beverages. Monk fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, but it is much sweeter than sugar. The sweetness comes from mogrosides, which can make monk fruit sweetener up to 250 times sweeter than sugar.

There are zero calories, carbohydrates and fat per teaspoon, according to the USDA.

Health Benefits

Besides being an alternative sweetener, monk fruit contains several health benefits. It's also been deemed as "generally recognized as safe (GRAS)" for everyone, including pregnant women and children, by the FDA.

No Effect on Blood Sugar

If you're monitoring your blood sugar levels, consider choosing monk fruit as an alternative sweetener. Since monk fruit sweetener contains no calories or carbs, it will not raise blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that monk fruit extract may even reduce blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, but more research is needed.

May Help to Promote Weight Loss

Don't be fooled by its super-sweet taste—monk fruit can actually be a great option for anyone watching their waistline. It contains no calories, carbs, or fat, which allows you to save a significant amount of calories and carbs when substituting monk fruit sweetener for regular table sugar. Research shows that using low-calorie sweeteners, such as monk fruit, can aid in moderate weight loss. Just be sure to choose monk fruit products that don't include any added sugars. Just because sweeteners are calorie- and sugar-free—that doesn't mean you should add them to everything you eat.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Experiencing any issues with inflammation? Monk fruit may be able to help with that. The same substance, mogrosides, that gives monk fruit its sweetness is also responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that mogrosides in monk fruit act as antioxidants and help to inhibit the growth of harmful cells and prevent the onset of chronic disease.

Possible Drawbacks

More research is needed to determine any long-term health impacts of monk fruit. Like most alternative sweeteners, some people may be turned off by the aftertaste, but that certainly depends on the individual. Monk fruit also isn't as bitter as many other sugar substitutes.

Some monk fruit products contain a mix of other sweeteners, like erythritol, so check the labels on the products you select.

Like with all sweeteners, even those without calories, overusing them can lead to preferences for sweet foods and increased cravings for sweets. (Learn more about what sweeteners do in your body.)

Ways Monk Fruit Can be Used

Monk fruit sweeteners can be used to sweeten almost anything, such as coffee, smoothies, hot cereals, tea, and sauces. And since monk fruit sweeteners are heat-stable, they are safe to use in baked goods. Check the labels on your monk fruit as many products will have instructions on the package for how to swap with sugar in baking recipes.

Bottom Line

Since monk fruit is relatively new to grocery stores, more research is needed to determine the long-term health impacts, but it appears to be helpful for those with diabetes, inflammation and anyone who wants to limit their sugar intake. Monk fruit sweeteners can be used to sweeten a variety of foods and beverages. And because these sweeteners are heat-stable, they can be also used in baking. When shopping for monk fruit products, be sure choose products that don't include any added sugars.