Monk Fruit - Even Sweeter Than Sugar!
Monk fruit is a fascinating gourd from China and northern Thailand. The extract of the fruit creates a sweetness sensation 250 times stronger than sucrose, the sweet chemical in sugar!
Monk fruit is well and truly coming into its own in the recent past. It was first used by Buddhist monks in the thirteenth century, hence the name, and only now is it being explored as a sweetener alternative to known brands.
You might have more than a fair share of questions about monk fruit, and we get that! We’ve made sure to track down all the information that you need to know, so here we go!
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruits are small gourds that have been ground in Southeast Asia for centuries. As we said in the paragraph above, they have been used by monks since the 13th century - so we know that they’re delicious and reliable.
Monk fruit has had a place in alternative Chinese medicine for centuries, but it was only granted approval for use as a sweetener by the FDA in 2010. Since then, the fruit has gone through rounds of trials to make an effective sweetener for food.
What is monk fruit sweetener?
Monk fruit sweetener is, essentially, a chemical that is extracted from monk fruit. The sweetener is bought as a powder and is created through the removal of the seeds and skin of the fruit, before crushing it to collect the juice. The juice is then dried into an extremely concentrated powder.
The thing that makes monk fruit different from a lot of other sweeteners is that the intense sweetness of the powder comes from unique antioxidants, called mogrosides. During the drying process, the mogrosides are separated from the juice. This means that the sweetener that you buy doesn’t contain any fructose or glucose from the fruit itself.
Monk fruit sweetener powder is exceptionally sweet when undiluted. This means that a number of manufacturers cut their powder with other natural products to decrease the intensity.
Is monk fruit healthy?
Monk fruit is quite healthy, as far as sweeteners go. One type of mogroside, called mogroside V, is the main component of monk fruit sweetener, making up over thirty percent of the product.
Mogroside V and other mogrosides within monk fruit sweetener have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making them very healthy indeed.
Are monk fruit sweeteners safe to consume?
Yes, monk fruit sweeteners are safe to consume! The FDA considered all monk fruit sweeteners to be safe. There are no harmful side effects, and there is no pure sugar in monk fruit extract - this means that it will not affect blood sugar levels.
What does monk fruit taste like?
Well, quite simply, monk fruit sweetener tastes sweet. It has a fairly coarse consistency and is light beige in color. Overall, it is a fairly plain sweetener that has a slight aftertaste - much like other comparable sweeteners.
How to use monk fruit in baking?
Sadly, monk fruit extract doesn’t bake at all well. This is because a lot of recipes that call for sugar require that sugar because it supplies some form of structure to the dish - this is the reason that sugar must be used for meringues.
The best way to use monk fruit as a sweetener in desserts is to use it to sweeten any desserts which don’t need a lot of sugar for textural reasons. Typically, these desserts will be functionally raw, and cold. Good examples are panna cotta and gelatin.
Remember - monk fruit extract will dissolve well to increase the overall level of sweetness in a dish, but it won’t form a rigid structure, the type of which may be required for some desserts and sweets.
Which is better: stevia or monk fruit?
Essentially, it comes down to two things: stomach problems and allergies.
If you’re at all allergic to any members of the gourd family, then steer clear of monk fruit extract. Monk fruits are a member of the gourd family, which is obvious when you see the raw, unprocessed fruit. Therefore, any allergy to any gourds is a good reason to avoid monk fruit extract.
When using stevia, you need to be a little wary of the sugar alcohols, dextrose, and maltodextrin. All of these chemicals are naturally present in stevia, it’s simply due to the makeup of the stevia plant. People using stevia might be trying to avoid sugar and starches by picking stevia - dextrose is glucose (sugar), and maltodextrin is a starch.
Therefore, the sweetener would not be suitable. The bottom line, however, is that in some people, stevia products made with sugar alcohols can cause digestive problems such as bloating and diarrhea, especially if you’re already sensitive to digestive issues.
What are the side effects of monk fruit?
The main downsides of monk fruit are fairly small, all things considered.
For example, monk fruit is rarely eaten fresh, due to the fact that it quickly goes bad after being harvested. This means that, typically, the fruit is dried before being shipped anywhere, meaning that you would only be able to source dried, imported monk fruit in most cases.
The only way to get your hands on some fresh monk fruit, however, would be to live near somewhere that happens to grow the fruit.
Furthermore, due to the difficulties of growing, harvesting, drying, and processing monk fruit, it can be very expensive. On top of the total manufacturing costs, the sweetener also needs to be shipped from its country of origin to your home, adding a little more to the total cost.
Finally, though this one is subjective, people are sometimes turned off by the unique aftertaste of monk fruit. While some people do enjoy the aftertaste, many people do not - this is a reason why stevia (which has an aftertaste a little like black licorice) hasn’t taken off quite as some people expected it to.
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