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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  4. Jonah Powers says:

    Did I just read that right – sweet but no calories? Who wouldn't want to try out something like this?

  5. Terrie Settgast says:

    Iam not diabetic but had gastric bypass 4 years ago so now have a sensitvity to sugar. I tried this, and it DOES have the taste of molasses to me…I taste it quite strongly. This product makes me nauseous. I will NOT use this again.

  6. Lee BD says:

    I tried the Monk Fruit in the Raw version, which is monk fruit extract and dextrose only. The package says that "Each packet contains less than 3 calories per serving which the FDA considers dietetically zero." I poured a bit into my hand and tasted it. Sweet, and no aftertaste – I had high hopes. Unfortunately, when I tried to use it in coffee (and I had to use two packets to get a sweetening effect), the flavor changed and developed the aftertaste of an artificial sweetener, but the bad taste developed from the beginning of the sip and did not just happen at the end. I think it would work in cold liquids but I was hoping to use it for coffee.

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  9. Ed E. says:

    Monk fruit is related to gourds and cucumbers. The sweetness comes from a chemical that is unrelated to any of the "sugars" (which are carbohydrates.). The problem with using monk fruit as a sweetener is that the juice also contains other chemicals that are bitter-tasting to people and animals — what has become the 'natural defense mechanism' of the gourd family of plants against being eaten by grazing animals. This is why many types of gourd are poisonous to humans in large amounts (people used to think cucumbers were poisonous, too.) Example: if you eat the skin of an over-ripe cucumber, sometimes it is a little bitter — the bitter chemicals develop after the fruit ripens.
    Nectresse is created through a patented process (by Procter & Gamble) that removes these bitter compounds using solvents (chemicals) and filtration.
    "Sugar" is made from the juice of the sugarcane by boiling and filtering (to remove the non-harmful molasses and dirt and ash from the harvesting process) — NOT through the use of chemical solvents. Thus sugar can be considered a 'natural' product and Nectresse is considered a 'processed' product.
    The P&G process also includes a method of reducing the amount of bitter compounds in monk fruit naturally: they discovered that the bitter compounds form AFTER the fruit ripens but before it is harvested; they figured out a successful way to harvest before the fruit ripens 'on the vine' and then they allow the fruit to finish ripening in their warehouse, under observation — then they know as soon as the fruit is at optimum ripeness and remove the juice before the bitter compounds form. This allows them to use less chemical solvents to process the juice than if they allowed the fruit to ripen in the field.
    Some of the chemicals in this family of fruit can cause nausea or migraines in some people, depending on how much you eat and how sensitive you are to them. It is not common, unless you are exposed to larger quantities of pure extract, but it is possible.

    I learned all of this from the websites of producers of monk fruit extract (Chinese and U.S.), Wikipedia, and Nectresse-related websites.

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