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Everything You Need to Know About Monk Fruit Sweeteners

Is it okay to use monk fruit powder in healthy recipes? Is it safe for kids? 

Monk fruit powder

As moms, we want to give our kids the best foods possible. At the same time, we want them to feel included at parties and special events.

Their emotional wellness is as important as their physical health. Whenever I know that a get-together will have treats, I pack a healthy alternative. 

Celebration is an important part of being human and food is a big part of that. I want my kids to enjoy food in community.

As a grain-free and sugar-free family, it can be challenging to make healthier versions of desserts

I was intrigued when I first heard about monk fruit. I started seeing bloggers use monk fruit extract in many paleo and keto-friendly recipes. 

It was exciting to see a new sugar replacement because I react to other so-called natural sweeteners like stevia and sugar alcohols

After some research, I won’t use monk fruit extract or monk fruit sweetener, but I will use monk fruit powder

I’ll tell you why powdered monk fruit is different, what the problem is with some other natural sweeteners, and how to use monk fruit powder. 

What Is Monk Fruit Powder? 

Also called lo han kuo, monk fruit powder is derived from a small sub-tropical melon in South-East Asia. It’s in the gourd family with other melons and cucumbers. 

This sweet fruit doesn’t travel well, so it can’t be imported to us as whole fruit. 

Monk fruit powder is simply dried monk fruit that’s a byproduct of water extraction. It’s kind of like dehydrated fruit juice turned into powder.

It is a powerful sweetener. It only takes 1 tablespoon of monk fruit powder to sweeten a 9 x 13 cake! 

Monk fruit powder

The FDA regards both monk fruit powder and monk fruit extract as generally safe. 

Many brands claim that it is zero calories or low calories, low carb, and non-glycemic. But I suspect that has more to do with the small serving size. 

Because the powder has such an intense sweetness, you won’t ever need to use enough that will change your glycemic index (other than the typical dip from eating anything.) 

Benefits of Monk Fruit 

Most of the data available on monk fruit is based on the whole fruit. There aren’t many studies on the nutrition of the powder. But we can infer that the powder still has some of the benefits of the whole fruit. 

Like other fruits, monk fruit is rich in antioxidants. The main antioxidant that remains intact in monk fruit extracts and powders is mogroside V. Mogrosides are antioxidants with health benefits like anti-inflammatory properties. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses monk fruit, and there are preliminary studies on adapting it for pharmaceuticals. One of the main anti-inflammatory uses is lowering blood sugar

Despite monk fruit’s safety and therapeutic uses, you have to be careful about the form you get it in. 

lemonade sweetened with monk fruit

The Problem with Most Monk Fruit Sweeteners and Extracts 

When I first started looking to use monk fruit, all of the common brands had other ingredients that I’m not comfortable using

Here’s what some of them are and why I won’t use them: 

  • Erythritol – This artificial sweetener is a sugar alcohol that comes from corn. It is usually GMO (and a grain I need to avoid.) 
  • Xylitol – This sugar alcohol that comes from wood or corn (but most brands won’t disclose which.) 
  • Natural Flavors – I don’t like supporting companies that don’t disclose all of their ingredients because it could be something I react to. 

The other issue is that the popular brands you see at the grocery store list monk fruit as the last ingredient, which means there are more fillers than the monk fruit itself

The most popular brand on grocery store shelves has more erythritol than monk fruit! Calling the product monk fruit extract feels like a marketing ploy. 

Brands that say “100% pure monk fruit” or “all-natural” just have these phrases on the front packaging for marketing. They don’t mean anything so always look at the ingredients list

Why Monk Fruit Extracts Have Additives 

The main reason other brands combine monk fruit with other ingredients is to make it have the same mass as sugar for baking

Erithrytol has a similar, granular texture as cane sugar so you can simply replace it in recipes for white sugar 1:1. In other words, 1 cup of erythritol/monk fruit can go in a recipe that calls for 1 cup of sugar. 

Plain monk fruit powder is not as easy to work with if you’re trying to convert a recipe that uses cane sugar. 

white sugar, refined sugar on table

Should You Use Powdered Monk Fruit Sweetener? 

I’ve worked hard to reverse pre-diabetes (and other autoimmune diseases.) Still, about a decade later, I still can’t handle more than 1-2 fruits per day or more than a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup

I am unable to consume stevia because it’s a migraine trigger for me. 

If you’re in a similar situation where you can’t use (much) honey or maple syrup, I think monk fruit powder is the next best option in baked goods

Is Monk Fruit Safe for Kids?

However, we don’t have long term research on safety, especially in kids. Monk fruit has been used for centuries, but monk fruit powder is young

For now, I’m comfortable using 1-2 tablespoons of monk fruit powder in a dessert recipe occasionally (which for us means not even once a month.) 

Compared to the immediate and long-term effects of cane sugar and other artificial sweeteners, plain monk fruit powder seems like the best choice to sweeten foods

It’s not an artificial sweetener, but like any other food that tastes sweet, there will still be the normal insulin increase. 

I’m skeptical that the zero carb and zero glycemic index claims are based on the fact that the serving size is a ½ tablespoon. Anyways, I’m using it in a recipe with nut and cassava flours so I know there will be an insulin spike. 

What’s the Best Monk Fruit Powder 

The only brand I trust is Smart Monk Fruit. (This monk fruit powder is also labeled as extract since that’s what many people search for but know that extracts can be powder or liquid.) 

It’s the only brand that has the label claim of no fillers (because food companies can put certain hidden ingredients into food without disclosing them in addition to other vague ingredients like “natural sweeteners.” In the US, they only have to disclose the top 8 allergens.) 

So far, it’s the only brand of monk fruit powder that I haven’t reacted to. (And I tend to be the canary in the coal mine with foods and hidden ingredients.) 

It’s non-GMO. (I haven’t been able to find an organic one, most likely because the US isn’t hot enough to grow luo han guo fruit so it could be certified USDA organic.) 

What Does Monk Fruit Powder Taste Like? 

Monk fruit powder has a fruity and sweet taste. By itself, it does have some bitter notes similar to stevia, but it doesn’t have any aftertaste. 

The powder comes in a pale yellow. (While the monk fruit extracts that are more processed are white.) The texture is a little thicker and heavier than powdered sugar. 

Many brands claim that it’s hundreds of times sweeter than sugar

If you use too much monk fruit powder, it becomes sour very quickly. I was surprised at how pungent it is. 

The comparison chart on Smart Monk fruit says that to replace 1 cup of sugar, you only need ⅔ tablespoon of monk fruit

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How to Use Monk Fruit Powder 

There are a few considerations for how to use monk fruit as a sugar substitute. It depends on what the recipe you are adapting calls for. 

The math gets more tricky if you are adapting a recipe that has a bulky ingredient like cane sugar. You need something to replace that volume

Monk fruit powder doesn’t give the same volume as swapping honey for sugar in a recipe does.

Because it depends on the other ingredients, there isn’t a chart I can offer with what to do. But I’ll walk you through one classic recipe I adapted. 

One of our favorite healthy alternatives in our family is carrot cake

I use coconut flour and eggs as a fluffy base, and then the shredded carrots help make up the mass that sugar used to

I like to make a double batch of my carrot cake recipe and freeze individual pieces in silicone bags so I can pack them for parties for us to enjoy as a healthy alternative to whatever is being served. 

In other baked goods, using a mix of grain-free ingredients like cassava flour or tigernut flour can help make up that volume you are missing from granulated sugar. 

monk fruit extract

You can also use a pureed apple or banana to help make up for the volume that you are losing from not having a bulky sugar replacement. It depends on your needs. 

Remember, the main thing you will need to consider when adapting a recipe with monk fruit is how to replace the mass you are missing from cane sugar

If you look up recipes with monk fruit, be sure to look closely at the form of monk fruit it’s using. (You may have to click on their hyperlink on the recipe card.) 

For this reason, I suggest starting out with recipes that call for non-volume sweeteners like stevia. Five drops of stevia is about ⅛ Tablespoon of monk fruit powder. 

It can be as simple as adding a sprinkle to your tea or coffee. Monk fruit powder has a similar texture to powdered sugar where it will dissolve into any liquid. 

I’ve also used it in homemade ice cream and smoothies.

I will also add a sprinkle of monk fruit into the cream cheese that we use for frosting. It’s a great sweetener in homemade yogurt as well.

You can sprinkle it similarly to powdered sugar on top of sweets. It has the same appetizing look! 

I’ve seen others use monk fruit powder like powdered sugar on top of french toast. 

Will you use monk fruit powder as a sugar alternative? 

Sources

Hong, H. J., Yang, Q., Liu, Q., Leong, F., & Chen, X. J. (2022). Chemical Comparison of Monk Fruit Products Processed by Different Drying Methods Using High-Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography Combined With Chemometric Analysis. Frontiers in nutrition, 9, 887992. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.887992

EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), Younes, M., Aquilina, G., Engel, K. H., Fowler, P., Frutos Fernandez, M. J., Fürst, P., Gürtler, R., Gundert-Remy, U., Husøy, T., Mennes, W., Moldeus, P., Oskarsson, A., Shah, R., Waalkens-Berendsen, I., Wölfle, D., Degen, G., Herman, L., Gott, D., Leblanc, J. C., … Castle, L. (2019). Safety of use of Monk fruit extract as a food additive in different food categories. EFSA journal. European Food Safety Authority, 17(12), e05921. https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2019.5921

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2018, March 27). Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000627. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/food/gras-notice-inventory/agency-response-letter-gras-notice-no-grn-000627

Sun, Z., Lü, B., & Feng, Y. (2020). Sheng wu gong cheng xue bao [Synthetic biology for the synthesis of mogroside V – a review]. Chinese journal of biotechnology, 36(10), 2017–2028. https://doi.org/10.13345/j.cjb.200072

Tey SL, Salleh NB, Henry J, Forde CG. Effects of aspartame-, monk fruit-, stevia- and sucrose-sweetened beverages on postprandial glucose, insulin and energy intake. Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 Mar;41(3):450-457. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.225. Epub 2016 Dec 13. PMID: 27956737.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

10 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Monk Fruit Sweeteners”

  1. Again. I need to proofread before I send – and I was a copy editor for years! (It’s almost midnight if that’s a good excuse.) I meant to say I was “not happy with Swerve. Donna Gates is now selling…”. I apologize for all the extra reading time.

  2. I need an edit button 😏. The unrefined sugar mentioned in my earlier comment should have had an organic *. I haven’t used monk fruit; not happy with Donna Gates @ Body Ecology is now selling BeSweet powder and liquid instead of Lakanto. It is a blend of allulose, stevia, and monk fruit that she considers the “3 of the safest sweeteners.”

  3. Being a good label reader is imperative today. For stevia, Natural Living Family recommends only the organic green stevia powder (some medicinal benefits to this) since the white powder is bleached and high processed. One *green stevia powder I found on Amazon is $26/8oz. I haven’t tried it, but description says 1 t. is equal to 1 cup of sugar. I have read stevia doesn’t do well in baked or heated foods? I alternate sweeteners (*maple syrup in cooked foods, *raw honey in uncooked foods, unrefined cane sugar or *coconut sugar in baked goods) but use all sugars in moderation. *organic

  4. Here is an organic source and frankly the best one I have found myself for pure monk fruit. https://naturaltasteinc.com/

  5. I don’t think I have a problem with stevia or other healthy sweeteners. Is monk fruit powder still the best for people who can use stevia, liquid monk fruit or a combination of stevia and monk fruit.

    1. Hi Kathy, I think a combo of monk fruit and stevia is good if you tolerate both. Everyone’s health is different. Always talk to your doctor to discuss any concerns!

      1. I just found your website and I’m very grateful I did. It’s so difficult navigating group get-togethers with a small child, constantly made to feel like I’m depriving my kiddo because I don’t feel comfortable with the “standard American diet”. I looped monk fruit in with all of the other artificial and alternative sugars, but reading your article here has helped me be more open to it. I like how you explain your reasoning behind why using powder only and your openness about the sweetener not being around long so not having the long term effects of it.

        It’s difficult trying to navigate the standard American diet with whole food alternatives especially because there are WAY TOO MANY items that are sugar filled.

        Thank you again for the post!

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