Monk fruit sweetener has been talked about a lot lately especially in health and food circles due to it's availability becoming more world wide. It's a great option for the Paleo lifestyle and diet to be used in cooking and baking.
Monk fruit is a small round fruit also known as lo han guo and is grown in Southeast Asia.The fruit itself is round, approximately 5 centimeters in diameter, and has a sweet edible pulp inside a bitter outer rind. The fruit is attached to the plant via long tendrils, as this plant is technically a vine.
The fruit is packed with antioxidants and other organic compounds and vitamins that have a wide array of benefits to human health. And it's named after the monks that harvested this fruit in the southern Chinese mountains as early as the 13th century.
Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skins of the lo han guo fruit, crushing the fruit and collecting the juice. This juice is combined with a hot water infusion, filtered and then dried to create a powdered extract - a very small amount provides a lot of sweetness.
The juice of the Monk fruit is about 200 times more sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and this is why nutritionists have given it the thumbs up.
Beware of added ingredients to Monk fruit sweeteners like molasses, or a sugar alcohol called erythritol, which will decrease the health benefits of the product.
"So far, there is no bad research or known negative side effects to using monk fruit as a sweetener", Amy Shipiro, RD, says. Monk fruit has also been safely used for centuries in Eastern medicine as a cold and digestive aid.
Governments in the US, Canada, China, Japan and Singapore have officially cleared Monk fruit in 2009 without any warnings - it is safe for people with diabetes, pregnant women, nursing moms, children - everyone! Permitted monk fruit sweeteners are safe and useful options for children and teens and can be included as part of a well-balanced diet.
It's a safe alternative sweetener, because unlike sugar, there is no effect on blood sugar levels, and this is exactly what people need to avoid. Monk fruit is also high in antioxidants which has an added health benefit when you use it to sweeten your smoothie or coffee. It is also heat stable so you can cook and bake with it.
Monk fruit juice sweetener is available in New Zealand.