Monk Fruit Sweeteners

by in Food News, November 26, 2012

monk fruit
Sugary goodness, but no calories in sight. Is the newest no-calorie sweetener made from the ancient Monk fruit too good to be true? Find out.

What is Monk Fruit?
This ancient Chinese fruit is also known as luo han guo. According to my go-to Chinese medicine expert (a close friend), traditionally this fruit is used for building immunity and fighting sugar cravings.

The Monk fruit is similar in size and shape to a lemon; its color is somewhere between Kelly and lime green, with pale green streaks. The inner pulp is used to create a super-sweet product that (in small portions) contains very little calories.

Manufactures of monk fruit sweeteners report that it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar, which allows it to be used in small quantities.

A few years back, the FDA gave some products derived from monk fruit the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation, which has allowed food companies to process and incorporate it into powders and extracts. This means you can find it on ingredient lists as well as standalone packets and canisters. This sweetener is relatively new on the scene; if you haven’t seen it in your local grocery store, you will soon.

New Products
A few name brands of Monk fruit containing sweeteners are currently on the market. A powder from the Splenda folks called “Nectresse” is sold in bright orange colored packets and canisters. According to the Nectresse website, their product is combined with erythritol (a sugar alcohol), sugar and molasses. Since sugar and molasses do contain calories, larger portions of this sweetener will have a caloric value.

Other name brand products you might come across include Fruit-Sweetness, Go-Luo and Purefruit (a monk fruit extract).

How Does it Taste?
Monk fruit sweetener tastes, well . . . sweet. It has a course sugar-like consistency and is light beige in color. It does have a slight aftertaste but I found it more pleasant than some other sweeteners I’ve tried.

It’s relatively quick dissolving and one packet made a cup of coffee overly sweet by my standards. Its heat stable so you can cook with it. One company website states that ¼ teaspoon of sweetener is as sweet as 1 teaspoon of sugar. They suggest experimenting with your favorite recipes to find the right balance of sweetness.

Recipes from makers of the sweetener include beverages, granola, apple pie, cream fillings, pancakes and salad dressings.

Bottom Line: Don’t be fooled by the word “natural.” Monk fruit may come from a plant but it must be processed to some degree to become a powdered or liquid sweetener. Just like all the other sweeteners out there, this kind should be used in moderation.

Tell Us: Have you tried Monk fruit sweeteners? Will you?

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