Most of us probably couldn’t pick out a monk fruit in the produce aisle, and truth be told, it’s not likely to catch your attention amidst luscious lemons, colorful apples, and vibrant oranges. But the monk fruit is getting a great deal of attention these days from health-conscious foodies, sugar-free devotees, and those in the diabetes community.
Monk fruit, or lo han guo, is a small green melon native to southern China and named after the monks who first cultivated it centuries ago. The health benefits of the fruit have been well-known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for decades, but its sweet little secret is finally making it into the wellness mainstream.
What’s so great about monk fruit?
Monk fruit sweetener is made from extract derived from dried fruit. The extract is 150-250 times sweeter than table sugar, has zero calories and carbs, and does not raise blood glucose levels.
Most nonnutritive sweeteners can cause side effects like gas, bloating, or allergic reactions. And some artificial sweeteners like Equal and Splenda are controversial. In the case of monk fruit sweeteners, there are no known side effects.
The Food and Drug Administration has deemed monk fruit “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” for everyone, including pregnant women and children. Even so, because monk fruit is relatively new to the mass market, there are no scientific studies on the effects of long-term use.