What is Monk Fruit?
Few foods have created the stir of monk fruit since it officially passed FDA inspection in 2010. Since then, it has become a keto community favorite as a carbohydrate and calorie-free sweetener.
However, monk fruit isn’t just some new well-marketed superfood––records show that people have been consuming it since the 1200’s A.D. when its benefits inspired the local Luo Han monks of Guangxi, China to become the first known people to cultivate it.
It has also long been used medicinally as a remedy for the common cold and digestive issues.
Monk Fruit is a small orange-sized green gourd that resembles other members of the cucurbit family of plants like cucumbers, squash and melons. It has an edible bitter rind that envelops a seed-dense ultra-sweet pulpy fruit.
Native to southern China and parts of the Malay peninsula, most of it is still grown in the misty highlands of southern China’s Guangxi province. To this day, the fruit in this region is still named after those Luo Han monks who were the first to grow it and sing its praises.
If you live outside of Asia, you’ll most likely encounter monk fruit in it’s extracted form on the shelves of your supermarket or health food store––and with increasing frequency! But buyer beware, most monk fruit marketed sweeteners are commonly mixed with other carriers, like erythritol, or even stevia. Belichka uses 100% pure monk fruit extract, and we recommend the same to you!
Why Is It Awesome?
Monk fruit extract's modern acclaim comes from these main benefits:
- It is 100% natural, extracted from real whole fruit (not made in a lab like erythritol or allulose)
- It's packed with antioxidants
- It’s 150-200x sweeter than sugar without affecting blood sugar levels
- It has zero calories or carbohydrates
- It has no known adverse side effects
That means you might really benefit from monk fruit if you check any of these boxes:
- You want to minimize free radicals in your body with antioxidants
- You want to fend off colds and promote overall wellbeing
- You’re looking for keto-friendly sugar substitutes with zero calories
- You want to show your sweet-tooth what self-love tastes like
What Kind of Monk Fruit Does Belichka Use?
At Belichka, we use an extract of monk fruit that still retains much of the fruit's other important and natural healthy compounds. As such, it's color is a medium dark yellow hue and it's flavor is quite fruity! It's important to note that there are monk fruit extracts available that are 2-3x the sweetness of what Belichka uses, and these have been processed much more intensively, possibly stripping some of the anti-oxidants and other natural chemical compounds found in the whole fruit. There are also extracts available that include a majority of the sweet pulp of the fruit, and these while tasting wonderful and exotic, have too much residual sugar from the plant to be keto (but could be fun to try as a special treat if you are curious to know what the whole fruit tastes like).
How Does Monk Fruit Extract Work?
Monk fruit extract works so well as a sweetener that it almost sounds too good to be true, right?
However, the science is there to back it.
The chemical composition of monk fruit extract is such that all of its sweetness comes not from sugars but from antioxidants called mogrosides.
Yet, unlike sugar, your body doesn’t process mogrosides as food! They pass through your body with negligible caloric impact, hence the “zero calorie” badge and low glycemic index.
Further studies have shown that the mogroside is both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer and particularly effective as therapy for throat cancer. It’s one thing for a sugar substitute to be safe, but monk fruit actually goes beyond that and is good for you!
So, the long and short of it is that monk fruit will enter your body as a welcome and sweet guest, imparting many health benefits, but it won’t stay in your body in the form of stored energy or a blood sugar spike. It makes as polite an exit as an entrance.
Will Monk Fruit Extract Break a Fast?
The logical question you might have about monk fruit is whether or not it’s something you could throw in your coffee without breaking your fast before the morning workout.
Unfortunately, not enough studies have been done to confirm this, but given that monk fruit is zero calorie, and doesn't impact blood glucose levels, there is no reason to believe that it should.
How Does Monk Fruit Compare To Other Sugar-Free Sweeteners?
Obviously, at Belichka, we’re big advocates of monk fruit and that’s why we use it as the sweetener for our plant-based keto energy bars. But its versatility means that it’s good to have some around your house to be used in any recipe.
The most comparable sugar substitute, stevia, is another common sugar substitute for people following a keto or primal lifestyle. Like monk fruit, stevia is also an all natural plant that boasts chemical compounds 300x sweeter than sugar. Stevia also claims many health benefits including blood sugar reduction and immune support.
However, in addition to the fact that many people complain of a bitter or off-taste from stevia, monk fruit has a much cleaner fruity flavor. Some studies have also shown that stevia consumption may be linked to gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea. Stevia may be problematic and it’s not just the health world taking note. In 2018 the New York Times jumped on the bandwagon of questioning the efficacy of Stevia.
With a much more natural production method, monk fruit extract appears by and large to be the healthiest sugar substitute on the market right now. It hasn’t changed in the past 800 years, so maybe it’s time to embrace the sweet, sweet glory of monk fruit.