Who does not like saving some calories and still enjoying their favorite drinks or foods? That is the beauty of alternative sweeteners, like monk fruit or stevia. However, you should know that these two are not the same thing and will offer different things.
Stay tuned to find out what monk fruit and stevia have in common and what they do not. You will likely feel more informed to make a better decision.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Also known as Luohan Guo or Siraitia grosvenorii and is a member of the gourd family. Monk fruit is native to China. The fruit extract is 250 times sweeter than sucrose.
The monk fruit extract also called mogroside extract has been used as a low-calorie sweetener for beverages, desserts, and other foods, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine. The fruit has been around for centuries, but the first documented mention comes from the 13th century. The fruit was first introduced to the United States in the 20th century.
The sweetness comes from the juice extracted from the fruit. Monk fruit contains about 20-35% of carbohydrates, including fructose and glucose. The sweetness is also increased thanks to the mogrosides, which is a group of triterpene glycosides called saponins. These five different mogrosides are numbered from I to V.
Because the fruit is so hard to store fresh, most times the fruit is sold dry. For the most part, you will find dry monk fruit sold in Chinese herbal shops. Most times, the fruit is dried in an oven to remove unwanted odors.
The process of manufacturing and commercializing monk fruit was patented by Procter & Gamble in 1995. The fruit has many toxic and useless compounds that have to be removed before using the sweetener. Some of these include hydrogen disulfide, methional, methionol, dimethylsulfide, and methyl mercaptan. The patent describes the necessary process to remove these toxins and use the remaining sweetener.
Through solvent extraction, the remaining sweetener contains 80% mogrosides. To do this, the peel and seeds must be removed, turning the fruit into a puree or juice. The juice is then homogenized and acidified to prevent gelling and unwanted flavors.
One teaspoon of monk fruit powder (0.5 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 0 calories
- 0 g protein
- 0 g fat
- 0.5 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 0 g sugar
- 0 mg calcium
- 0 mg potassium
- 0 mg sodium
- 0 mg cholesterol
Is Monk Fruit Healthy?
As you can see above, monk fruit contains no calories, no sugar, and no fat. It is a non-nutritive sweetener, which means it does not add anything to your diet. Since it is very sweet, you need a small amount to sweeten your foods or beverages.
Monk fruit is known to be an antioxidant-rich plant. The compounds that give the plant its signature sweetness and mogrosides are also anti-inflammatory. While there is not enough research on the juice or powder from this plant, you will likely still obtain some of these health benefits.
If you want to cut down on calories, monk fruit is the right choice. It will not only serve its purpose, but it adds zero calories or sugar. Your blood sugar levels will not be affected by this sweetener.
For individuals who tend to be intolerant to sugar-free products, the answer might be in the sugar alcohols. These sweeteners go through your GI tract much faster and often ferment in your gut, causing gastrointestinal discomfort. With monk fruit, you will not see any of these issues but will still have a sugar-free food or beverage.
Since there is no actual sugar in monk fruit, this alternative sweetener can help prevent cavities. Consuming sugar and sweetened foods can lead to tooth decay and give more space for cavities to appear. Monk fruit is a great way to have something that tastes sweet without risking your teeth.
Because monk fruit is so sweet, you will only need a small amount. You do not need more than a pinch to sweeten most things. In the end, you will save money as well.
As with any non nutritive sweetener, you will reduce your caloric intake when you use monk fruit. In the long run, this can lead to some weight loss or at least weight maintenance. The benefits come from using monk fruit along with a healthy diet.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation to monk fruit. The designation means that using monk fruit is considered safe and has no known side effects. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest that monk fruit is entirely safe, so using it sparingly is recommended.
In general, you can count on monk fruit as a safe alternative to sugar or other alternative sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose. It is relatively easy to use, and you will not need too much of it. One package will likely last you longer than using other sweeteners or sugar.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sugar alternative that comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. This plant is native to South America, particularly Brazil and Paraguay. The active compounds steviol glycosides are the ones responsible for its sweetness.
Stevioside and rebaudioside are the two main glycosides that give stevia its strength in sweetness. Some say this sweetener could be more than 300 times sweeter than your regular sugar. Stevia is also heat-stable, has a stable pH, and does not ferment.
Because the human body cannot metabolize glycosides, this sweetener is considered non-nutritive. People sometimes report a slightly bitter or metallic aftertaste when using this sweetener. However, stevia is still widely used for sugar-free products and as a safe alternative for diabetics.
Stevia became recognized as an alternative sweetener in the United States by 2008. Still, the leaf and some extracts are not thought of as safe to use. Stevia was approved as an additive in Europe in 2011 and for many years in Japan.
The Guaraní indigenous people of South America have used stevia for over 1,500 years. Stevia leaves are often in their tea and other beverages. By 1931, two French chemists isolated the necessary glycosides that give stevia its unique properties.
Rebaudioside A is a type of stevia with the least metallic and bitter aftertaste. The stevia leaves are dried and undergo a water extraction process to produce this compound. The glycosides are then separated and crystallized.
One teaspoon of stevia powder (3 g) has the following nutritional content (*):
- 0 calories
- 0 g protein
- 0 g fat
- 3 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 0 g sugar
- 0 mg calcium
- 0 mg iron
- 0 mg sodium
- 0 mg cholesterol
Is Stevia Healthy?
Stevia is a healthy alternative to sugar or other sweeteners. It comes from a plant, making it a natural sweetener. It is sweet, which makes it useful in various recipes.
Using stevia is a great way to prevent a blood glucose increase because your body does not absorb it. It can be a good alternative for individuals with diabetes. Stevia is also very sweet, so you will likely need only a pinch instead of large quantities.
As you can see from above, stevia contains no calories, no sugar, and no fat. It is a non-nutritive sweetener that will not add anything to your body. Since it has no nutrients, you can safely add it to your diet.
Like other non-nutritive sweeteners, stevia can help in weight management. Thanks to its lack of calories, stevia can help you lose weight as part of a healthy lifestyle. While it is not a magic diet pill, stevia is a healthy option to prevent weight gain.
The stevia plant might also contain several antioxidants. While we cannot really know if the powder or extract also has them, there could be some health benefits when you choose this sweetener. In particular, the flavonoid kaempferol helps prevent inflammation or illness.
There is also some evidence to suggest that stevia can lower blood pressure (*). Stevia can help relax blood vessels while also increasing sodium excretion. The research is still inconclusive, but stevia will certainly not raise your blood pressure either way.
Unlike other alternative sweeteners, stevia does not pose any allergic concerns. Your body will not metabolize the glycosides in the sweetener, and they will likely not cause any reaction in your body. For the most part, any individual can consume stevia without concerns.
Stevia is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), like monk fruit. However, this does not mean that you should consume it in excess. In some cases, stevia is in other products that contain sugar alcohols, which are not always digested properly and might cause GI distress.
What Are The Key Differences Between Monk Fruit And Stevia?
These two are non-nutritive sweeteners, but they do not have the same origin. Monk fruit comes from the Luohan Guo plant. You can obtain stevia from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
They are both very sweet, much more than sugar, but not the same amount. Monk fruit is about 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is stronger and 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
These two are relatively newer in the market, but monk fruit is the newest. Because it is considered a new non-nutritive sweetener, monk fruit is more expensive and harder to come by. Stevia is now a widely available product, and many different brands sell it.
Since they are not sugar, these two sweeteners tend to have an aftertaste. Monk fruit is considered by many to be excessively sweet and lingering for many seconds after. Stevia has a strong bitter and metallic aftertaste.
Not everyone can safely consume monk fruit. It is important to note that monk fruit comes from the gourd family, which means individuals with allergies or sensitivities to these plants should not have it. There are no known allergies or sensitivities when it comes to stevia.
There is some evidence that stevia might alter hormones in humans. Since glycosides have a similar structure to steroids, they can sometimes disrupt normal hormonal processes. Monk fruit has a very different chemical structure and will not pose any of these health issues.
Finally, for the most part, monk fruit is sold on its own, while stevia might not. Since monk fruit has a milder aftertaste, manufacturers do not need to add anything to change the flavor. Stevia is often paired with sugar alcohols to help reduce the aftertaste, but these can cause gastrointestinal problems for many.
|Main Differences||Monk Fruit||Stevia|
|Origin||Southeast Asia||South America|
|Taste||Intensely sweet||Sweet with a metallic and bitter aftertaste|
|Uses||Desserts, beverages, candy, and pastries||Desserts, beverages, sodas, candy, pastries, and commercial products|
|Potency||150 to 200 sweeter than sugar||200 to 300 sweeter than sugar|
|Calories per serving||0 calories||0 calories|
Is Monk Fruit or Stevia Better?
Generally, these two non-nutritive sweeteners are safe and healthy to use. They add no calories to your foods or beverages and they are natural. You can choose either one depending on which flavor you prefer.
Still, some people prefer monk fruit over stevia. It is sweet but does not contain a metallic or bitter aftertaste. This makes using this sweetener easier in all sorts of products and avoids adding other ingredients to mask the flavor, like sugar alcohols.
If you cannot find monk fruit, or find it too expensive, using stevia is a good option. You can use only a bit of it without overpowering your flavors. Be careful not to overdo it because it can be too sweet.
Now you are aware of two very popular non-nutritive sweeteners. You can choose depending on the flavors you need and what recipe you are preparing. Avoid unnecessary calories and sugar with these two sweeteners.
*image by Hajai/depositphotos
*image by Dionisvera/depositphotos