Monk Fruit vs. Stevia: Comparing Natural Sweeteners

When it comes to natural sweeteners, monk fruit and stevia are two popular options that are considered healthier alternatives to sugar. Both of these sweeteners have gained popularity in recent years due to their natural origins and low-calorie content. However, there are differences between the two in terms of taste, availability, and potential health benefits. In this article, we will take a closer look at monk Fruit and stevia, comparing their nutritional profiles and discussing their overall impact on health. 

What is Monk Fruit?

Monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, is a small round fruit that comes from the Siraitia grosvenorii plant, native to southern China. Although fresh monk fruit is not widely available outside of its native region, monk fruit extract has gained popularity as a natural sweetener in recent years. This sweetener is said to be around 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, making it a popular choice for those looking to reduce their sugar intake without sacrificing sweetness. Monk fruit extract can be found in a variety of products, including beverages, snacks, and baked goods. It is also commonly used as a sweetener in recipes for those with diabetes or those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. As the demand for natural sugar alternatives continues to grow, monk fruit extract is becoming increasingly common in the modern kitchen and health products.

Monk fruit sweeteners are approved as "generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Health Benefits of Monk Fruit

Monk fruit is not only a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners and unhealthy sugars, but it also provides a some notable benefits.

  1. Zero glycemic: Because it doesn't raise blood sugar levels, monk fruit sweetener is a popular choice for those managing diabetes or looking to maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Antioxidant-rich: Monk fruit contains beneficial antioxidants called mogrosides, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties in a 2013 study. These antioxidants also help support a healthy immune system and can potentially reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
  3. Potency: Since monk fruit extract is 150-200 times sweeter than table sugar,  a little goes a long way.
  4. Not bad for teeth: Unlike regular table sugar, monk fruit extract does not contain any sugar and therefore doesn't cause cavities.

With these health benefits, it's no wonder that monk fruit extract has become a popular choice for those looking to sweeten their food and drinks without the negative effects of traditional sugar. 

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a natural sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. It contains zero calories and is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, making it a popular choice for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. Stevia can be used in a variety of ways, including as a sweetener in beverages like coffee and tea, as well as in baked goods and other recipes. Stevia products are available in various forms, including powders and liquid drops. Many people choose stevia extract as a healthier alternative to sugar due to its lower glycemic index and lack of artificial ingredients. Overall, stevia sweetener is a versatile and natural sweetener that can be easily incorporated into a variety of foods and drinks. 

Refined stevia extracts and derivatives are recognized as GRAS by the FDA. However, whole stevia leaf and unrefined stevia lead extracts are not approved by the FDA due to inadequate toxicological information. 

Health Benefits of Stevia

Stevia may offer several health benefits due to its natural origin and low calorie content. Stevia contains steviol glycosides, which are compounds responsible for the plant's sweetness. These compounds have been found to have a few potential benefits including:

  1. Zero glycemic: Some studies suggest that stevia consumption may help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, making it a potential option for individuals managing diabetes or hypertension.
  2. Potency: Stevia is suggested to be up to 300 times sweeter than typical sugar.
  3. Not bad for teeth: Similar to monk fruit, given the absence of sugars, consuming stevia over traditional sugars can help reduce the risk of dental cavities.
  4. Other: Stevia exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even insulin-enhancing properties, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits.

With its sweet taste and potential health benefits, stevia has become a popular natural alternative to artificial sweeteners for those looking to improve their diet and reduce their sugar intake. 

Choosing Between Monk Fruit and Stevia as Natural Sweeteners

stevia on a wooden spoon

When it comes to choosing natural sweeteners, many people turn to monk fruit and stevia as alternatives to traditional sugar. Both monk fruit and stevia have their own set of pros and cons, making it difficult for consumers to decide which one is the better option for their dietary needs. Let's explore the benefits and drawbacks of each sweetener to help you make an informed choice.

Pros of Monk Fruit

  • A non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it contains no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients.
  • Zero-glycemic.
  • No reported side effects to date.
  • Sweetness of monk fruit is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar.

Cons of Monk Fruit

  • An expensive option due to difficulties growing and importing monk fruit.
  • It may be harder to find monk fruit sweeteners compared to other alternative sweeteners.
  • It may be blended with higher-calorie or higher-glycemic sweeteners, so search for pure monk fruit extract.
  • While many people find monk fruit's taste pleasant, there are reports of a mild aftertaste.

Pros of Stevia

  • A non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it contains no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients.
  • Zero glycemic.
  • 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.

Cons of Stevia

  • Stevia is a highly refined product despite being plant-based. The FDA does not approve the consumption of raw stevia. Only the highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves are considered safe to use per the FDA.
  • It may be blended with higher-calorie or higher-glycemic sweeteners, so search for stevia standalone.
  • Some have found that stevia has a bitter aftertaste or metallic aftertaste.
  • Like monk fruit, it's a more expensive sugar alternative, however, it is typically less expensive than monk fruit.
  • May impact your gut bacteria, resulting in gas and bloating.

The Verdict: Monk Fruit or Stevia

When comparing the verdict on monk fruit versus stevia, it seems that monk fruit may come out on top.

Unlike stevia, monk fruit has zero known side effects, making it a safe and natural sweetener option for those looking to avoid the potential drawbacks of other sugar substitutes. In addition, monk fruit offers a milder sweetness compared to stevia, which can be more appealing to some palates. Both stevia and monk fruit can be substituted for sugar in beverages, smoothies, sauces, and dressings, making them versatile options for those seeking a healthier alternative to traditional sugar. From a nutritional profile and flavor perspective, monk fruit appears to have the upper hand, making it a favorable choice for those in search of a natural and mild sweetener. 

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