Monk Fruit and Diabetes: What Kind of Sweetener To Choose for Diabetes?
Generally, dietitians and specialists tell people with diabetes to stay off sweetened foods and drinks. They ask you to stick with fruits when you are craving sweet foods.
But you see, most fruits contain significant amounts of natural sugars. However, natural sweeteners, like monk fruit, are devoid of sugar, making them a better option. The sweetness of this fruit is from a glycoside unique to this fruit.
You probably can't even recognize the monk fruit if you are asked to pick it from a group of fruits. Don't worry; this article discusses everything you need to know about this native Chinese sweetener and how it concerns diabetes management.
- Protein 0 g
- Carbohydrate 2 g
- Fat 0 g
- Fiber 0 g
- Sugar 0 g
- Cholesterol 0 g
The monk fruit is a small round melon-like fruit native to Southeast Asia, especially China. Its native name is “Lo han guo”; some also call it “Swingle” fruit. As the name suggests, it got its name from Buddha monks, who were the first to cultivate it as far back as the 13th century.
Monk fruit has a characteristic intense sweet taste. They could sometimes serve as sugar substitutes. However, this fruit is widely known in China and other parts of Asia, as it is even integrated into traditional Chinese medicine. It is soon gaining global recognition since its approval by the FDA in 2010.
Monk Fruit Sweetener
Monk sweeteners belong to the class of nonnutritive sweeteners - sweeteners with no or zero calories. It is basically the extract from monk fruits. The extraction process involves the removal of the seeds and the fruit's skin, then crushing of the flesh to collect the juice, which is then later dried and concentrated into powder.
Monk fruit contains mainly natural sugars, fructose, and glucose. However, the natural sugars are removed during processing to form the sweetener. The sweet taste of monk fruit sweetener is from an antioxidant unique to this fruit - mogrosides. Monk fruit sweetener has an intense sweetness that supersedes all forms of sugar. It is about 100 to 250 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).
During extraction of the sweetener, the mogrosides are separated after pressing and crushing the fruit to collect the juice. The sweetener is sugar-free, as the mogrosides alone serve as sweeteners. Manufacturers of this sweetener sometimes mix it in a blend with other natural substances like erythritol to reduce its extreme sweetness and make it appear and taste like regular sugar.
Take a quiz
Discover what Klinio app can do for you
Healthy diabetes meal plan crafted just for YOU
Personalized workouts with no equipment needed
Track your progress with smart tracking tools
Monk fruit has several health benefits for everyone. However, we would start with those specific to diabetes management. Some of the benefits include:
Promote Body Weight Loss
Excess body weight can lead to an increase in abdominal fat. This may affect internal organs like the pancreas, thereby causing alteration to insulin production, which may be detrimental to diabetes management. Reducing the amount of sugar you consume with other weight loss measures can help you lose weight and assist you in getting that summer body you are looking to obtain.
Monk fruit is a low-calorie sweetener devoid of carbs and fats substituting sugar with monk fruit can help you drastically reduce your calorie intake. This sweetener is a good choice for individuals looking to cut down their body weight. It contains less sugar; hence it does not raise blood sugar levels. However, you may need to cross-check that the monk fruit product you are taking doesn't contain any other added sugars or artificial alternatives.
Reduce Blood Glucose Levels
Excessive consumption of sugar and carbs poses significant risks of developing diabetes. Monk fruit is an exciting alternative to sugar, which derives its sweetness from mogrosides, not sugar. Hence, replacing sugar with monk fruit may be critical in preventing blood sugar spikes.
Moreover, the main constituent of monk fruit, mogroside, has been linked to aiding in regulating blood glucose levels. Research also suggests that this compound may be effective against complications of diabetes. However, more studies may be required to confirm its effectiveness in humans.
Promotes Kidney Health
Poor kidney health is a significant concern in the management of diabetes. The excess blood sugar overwhelms the kidney, leading to kidney failure or diabetic nephropathy, which is common in type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Reports suggest that monk fruit can protect the kidney against diabetic damage. It also aids in regulating lipid levels, reduces blood sugar levels, and improves liver functions. All these benefits may prove vital in maintaining proper kidney health.
Promote Heart Function
Cardiovascular disorders are a major diabetic complication; hence, doctors sometimes prescribe drugs to improve heart function for diabetic patients. Monk fruits may reduce the propensity to develop heart disorders.
Mogrosides, the primary compound in monk fruit, contains antioxidant properties, which may be crucial in improving heart health. It is said to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, thereby preventing it from building up in arteries and other blood vessels.
Besides its benefits concerning the management of diabetes, there are a couple of other benefits of monk fruit to the improvement of general human health. Some of which include:
For centuries, monk fruit extract has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat sore throat and enlarged phlegm. Studies suggest that mogrosides may possess some anti-inflammatory properties, providing credible reasons for their use against sore throats.
Reports suggest that mogroside possesses some antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds from plants that rid the body of harmful free radicals that may pose risks of health issues like cancers and heart disorders. In all, antioxidants are good for improving the body's defenses against diseases: they can serve as good immune boosters.
A report also suggests that this compound regressed colorectal and throat cancerous cells. There are also some hypotheses that it may be effective against pancreatic cancer. However, more studies are underway to check for the activity of monk fruit and mogroside in the treatment of cancer.
Improve Gut Health
Monk fruit contains some antimicrobial properties, which may prove crucial and assist the body in combating the growth of harmful microbes. Also, it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
Monk fruit sweetener is already gaining popularity as an excellent replacement for sugar and artificial sweeteners because of its unique properties and the numerous benefits it offers consumers. It is a perfect choice for people with diabetes, hypertension, kidney diseases, and anyone looking to maintain healthy nutrition.
Below are some reasons that make this sweetener special, especially compared to common sugar:
Nonnutritive sweetener consumption is healthy because they don't have any form of carbohydrates. They are low-calorie sweeteners. This makes them ideal for those on a diet to restrict their calorie intake.
Pure monk fruit extracts are sugar-free. This makes this sweetener an excellent choice for those on a no-sugar diet and when managing diabetes.
Monk fruit sweetener is a zero-fat sweetener. Individuals with irregular blood lipid profiles may have to stick with this fascinating sweetener.
Since this sweetener lacks sugar, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, it's considered a zero or low-calorie sweetener. This makes it a suitable choice for those on a diet to restrict their calorie intake.
No Adverse Effects
Research into monk fruit sweeteners by the FDA and other health bodies shows that the sweetener is safe. At the time of writing this article, no harmful side effects from the intake of monk fruit sweeteners have been reported.
Most sweeteners have side effects, such as bloating and allergic reactions. However, monk fruit is safe for all consumers, including children and pregnant and lactating women. The FDA approves it for use in foods and beverages. However, it is still relatively new, so more research may be required to know if there may be effects after long-term usage.
Available in Several Forms
Monk fruit sweeteners are available in powder, granules, and even liquids. It all depends on the choice of the user. Also, those in granule and powder forms ensure easy to transport without worrying about spillage.
The monk fruit sweetener has no sodium. Hence, this sweetener is an exciting choice for patients with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and others who need to reduce sodium intake.
The American Diabetes Association recommends lo han guo, monk fruit, as a suitable sugar substitute.
The high intense sweet taste observed in monk fruit sweeteners is not from natural sugars or carbohydrates. In preparing this sweetener, all the sugars have been removed from the extract, leaving only the compound mogrosides. This compound has now been linked to positive outcomes in managing metabolic disorders, including diabetes.
Substituting sugar and other regular sweeteners with nonnutritive sweeteners, like monk fruit, may be necessary to manage diabetes. Monk fruit sweeteners, for example, are beneficial for the regulation of blood glucose and body weight management.
A couple of studies also suggest that they may increase insulin responses. Also, they have minimal influence over the overall daily calorie intake and postprandial glucose, which may prove critical for diabetes patients.
Since monk fruit is not yet widely accepted, its safety will be the first question bugging you. Well, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized monk fruit and gave it a tag of “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in 2010. Foods and drinks under this classification, GRAS, have undergone a series of studies before earning this status.
What's more? Monk fruit doesn't raise blood glucose levels; it is a good option for people with diabetes. Although there has not been specific research on monk fruits' effects on children, there haven't been any adverse reports. That said, we consider monk fruit as a healthy addition to children's diet. The same applies to both pregnant and lactating women.
Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with monk fruit-sweetened food may play a critical role in reducing the risks of gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Though, as we have reiterated several times, monk fruit is still relatively new and might need some more analysis to know more about its mechanism of action.
Nutrition is not simple arithmetics - the human body is a unique entity with variation amongst different individuals. That said, no single diet combination works for everyone; hence, the need to work with a medical practitioner for better management of your condition. In this light, diabetes patients need to work hand in hand with their wellness professionals or dietitian before including this sweetener into their diet.
You can add monk fruit sweetener to any food item or drink like sugar or other sweeteners. You just have to use it in moderation - you can't use these high-intensity sweeteners the same way you use table sugar because of its intense sweetness - it is at least 100 times sweeter than regular sugar.
The sweetener occurs in liquid, granules, or powdered form. Below are a couple of ways by which you can use the monk fruit sweetener:
Add to coffee, tea, or lemonade as a sweetener
Incorporate into salad dressings
Use to bake cakes, bread, cookies, or other snacks
Whip into frostings, yogurts, or mousse
You could add it to oatmeal, smoothie, and shades to impart taste.
Use Monk Fruit Sweetener in Moderation
Those with a sweet tooth get to satisfy their cravings without necessarily taking sugar. Besides the fact that monk fruit sweetener may prove too intense for the taste buds, especially when taken in excess, there is not enough research into its long-term use. So, it may be essential to use this sweetener moderately.
Besides monk fruit, many other sweeteners are sweeter than sugar, such as aspartame, saccharin, stevia, sorbitol, etc. Let's compare monk fruit and a couple of similar and common sweeteners, but first, let's start with table sugar.
Monk Fruit Sweetener vs. Table Sugar
Even though monk fruit sweetener lacks any form of sugar or carbs, its sweetness is greatly intensified. It is about 100 to 250 times sweeter than sugar.
Also, as mentioned earlier in this article, low-calorie sweeteners, like monk fruit sweeteners, lack calories or fats. Therefore, unlike sugar, it does not affect blood sugar.
What's more, unlike sugar, monk fruit does not cause cavities. So, even with it seeming overly sweet, your teeth are protected against tooth decay.
Monk Fruit vs. Stevia
Stevia sweeteners are similar to monk fruit in so many ways. First, they are also nonnutritive sweeteners; their sweetness is not from natural sugars. Instead, from a glycoside, rebaudioside A. Consequently, it also lacks sugars and carbs, making it an ideal choice for diabetes management. It is also greatly sweeter than sugar - up to 250 times.
However, unlike monk fruit sweeteners, it may cause nausea, bloating, and other side effects. Also, it has this licorice flavor that causes it to leave a bitter aftertaste, which may turn off, especially for those with a sweet tooth.
Monk Fruit vs. Aspartame
Aspartame is a common artificial sweetener widely known to the general public. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. However, unlike low-calorie sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit, it contains about four calories per gram, which is about the same amount as natural sugar.
Aspartame has been linked to numerous side effects in short- and long-term use. In fact, long-term use of this sweetener may be fatal to health.
That said, monk fruit and stevia sweeteners are better alternatives to substitutes for sugar.
We have extensively discussed the numerous benefits of monk fruit extract. So far, it seems as if there's no drawback to this fantastic Chinese fruit. Below are a couple of disadvantages of this sweetener:
Difficulty with growing and cultivation
Exportation, too, is expensive
Unlike many other sweeteners, it isn't common and is difficult to come by
Some claim they don't fancy the fruity sweetness (taste).
Also, when using these sugar substitutes, ensure that your product doesn't contain any form of sugar or added sweeteners. This may alter the results you want when deciding to switch to monk fruit.
People with diabetes must avoid sucrose-sweetened beverages. These drinks include soft drinks or sodas, sports drinks, flavored fruit juice, energy drinks, sweetened tea, etc. You see, food and beverages of natural origin are the best bet for people with diabetes.
For example, it is better to take natural coffee or smoothie sweetened with monk fruit than your regular fruit juice. You rest assured that you are taking a more nutritious and healthy drink than the ones you buy from your favorite cafe or store.
There is an extensive array of sweeteners out there. We will list a couple of them in this section.
Suppose you want a natural sweetener like monk fruit that contains some sugar and calories. Below are good choices:
Date powder or paste
Agave syrup, etc.
Another set of sweeteners is a sugar alcohol. These sweeteners have been reduced, which causes them to lose some sweetness and calories. Though they may cause gastrointestinal disturbances like bloating, they are a good option for all. Some of them are:
Finally, there’s the set of nonnutritive sweeteners with super-intense sweetness. These ones, like monk fruits, have an intense sweetness that is at least 100 times more than table sugar.
The Food Drug Administration classifies six such high-intensity sweeteners and food additives. They include:
Unlike monk fruit, these other low-calorie sweeteners or additives, as you may choose to call them, may be detrimental to the digestive tract, cardiovascular system, and diabetes management.
Monk fruits are nonnutritive sweeteners - that is, low-calorie sweeteners, which offer little or no nutrients at all when taken. Hence, no real change to the postprandial glucose after consumption. It stimulates the body's production of insulin. This is what makes it a sweetener of choice for people with diabetes. However, checking the constituents of whatever you buy from the store is essential, as some monk fruit-sweetened products may contain added sugars and other additives.
It can be consumed daily, as the sweetener is present in the liquid, powdered, and granular forms. However, patients still need to consult with their dietitians and health experts before including it into their diet, as we never can tell how the body will react to such an addition.
You could also use a diabetes management app to monitor how your body reacts after consuming this sweetener. These apps help to monitor your blood sugar levels. They also take note of your daily physical activities. We think every diabetes patient must see these apps as an essential tool to aid in better management of their condition, as you may not be able to see your doctor regularly. That said, an excellent example of such a tool is the Klinio app.
Download Klinio app!
Get more by downloading our free Klinio App. Analyze your health, form new habits and manage your diabetes anytime, anywhere.
SCAN QR CODE
GET THE APP