Food Trends: What is Monkfruit?

As I dug into a pint of new to me ice cream, Arctic Zero,  I scanned the ingredients label to find what the sweetener was. No sucralose,  no stevia, no aspartame, no high fructose corn syrup, no sugar. So what was making this magical (i.e 150-300 calories for a whole pint depending on the flavor!) ice cream sweet? Monkfruit. I have heard of monk fruit, but wasn’t as familiar with it as many of the other sweeteners, so I decided to do some research.

Monkfruit- collage

What is it?

Monkfruit is a plant native to China and Thailand that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years (1). It is a small, round fruit that is 150-300 times sweeter than sugar (1).

Monkfruit- fruit

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The concentrated juice of the monk fruit makes a great low calorie sweetener as very little is needed to provide the same sweetness as sugar. The components that make the fruit sweet, known as mogrosides, are extracted and concentrated into a powder for use as a sweetener (1). Monk fruit may be listed on ingredients labels as monk fruit, Necctresse, Purefruit, or Monk fruit in the Raw (2).

Monkfruit- sweetener

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As far as safety, the FDA recognizes monk fruit sweeteners as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). Other governments have also approved monk fruit sweeteners for use in food and beverage products including Canada, China, Japan and Singapore (2). Monk fruit sweeteners have also been determined to be safe for pregnant/breastfeeding women, people with diabetes and children (2).

Should you make the switch?

After tasting a product sweetened with monk fruit, it does have a unique taste that is not identical to sugar. For me, after a few bites of ice cream, I got used to the different taste and enjoyed it.

Monkfruit- arctic zero

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As far as it being a more natural sweetener, it is along the same lines as Stevia. It is derived from a natural source; however, it is highly processed to produce a useable powder. Honey or maple syrup would be a more “natural” sweetener, though these contain significantly more calories and carbohydrates. Monk fruit would be a good alternative for those who may not like the taste of stevia, and who prefer to avoid the more chemical based sugar substitutes such as aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda) or saccharin (Sweet-N-Low).

 

 

So tell us, have you tried Monkfruit? Did you like the taste?

 

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