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Craving sugar can be a difficult obstacle to overcome in our diets, especially since sugar is so addictive. It also lurks in many foods we don't typically associate with sugar.

If you love sugar, I can assure you, you are not alone. Every year, the average American consumes 57 pounds of added sugar in food. The problem with eating too much sugar is that it makes you gain weight and can cause a wide range of health problems.

What about sugar alternatives used as sweeteners? There are many products on the market that are made from different elements to make food and drinks taste sweet. However, they’re metabolized differently by your body. In recent years, monk fruit sugar has become a popular sugar substitute, and I'll tell you why.

What is monk fruit?

Monk fruit is a small, round green melon native to southern China. Originally called luo han guo, monk fruit has been cultivated by Buddhist monks for centuries which is where it gets its name. The fruit is indigenous to southern China and northern Thailand, where most of the world's monk fruit is grown.

Monk fruit sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruits and crushing them to extract the juice. The juice is then dried into a concentrated powder that is used to sweeten a variety of foods and beverages. Monk fruit contains natural sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, but it is sweeter than sugar. Mogrosides are responsible for that sweetness, making monk fruit sweetener over 100 times sweeter than sugar yet it contains no calories. 

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Monk fruit health benefits

Evidence suggests that monk fruit mogrosides contain antioxidants that are beneficial for you. Antioxidants are commonly found in plant foods and fight free radicals that can cause cancer and heart disease. A study found that the mogrosides in monk fruit act as antioxidants to inhibit the growth of harmful cells and prevent chronic diseases from developing.

You may want to consider monk fruit as an alternative sweetener if you are monitoring your blood sugar levels. As monk fruit sweetener contains no calories or carbs, it will not raise blood sugar levels. It has even been suggested that monk fruit extract can lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, but further research is needed.

Is monk fruit effective for weight loss?

When combined with other weight loss measures, eating less sugar could help you lose weight. Sugar is a source of empty calories, or calories that have no nutritional value. Replacing sugar with monk fruit is a smart way to eliminate those excess calories. However, we want to be careful not to allow artificial sweeteners to actually induce weight gain by creating a sugar dependency.

Is monk fruit safe?

"Generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) status was given to monk fruit by the US Food and Drug Administration. There have also been no reported side effects associated with it.

Keep in mind that all things are better in moderate amounts. Just because it’s GRAS, doesn’t mean you should consume lots of it every day. Although Monk fruit is a tasty option to cut sugar, we should focus on eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Besides vitamins and minerals, these foods also contain other nutrients that are necessary for overall health.

Another tip is to never forget to read the ingredients listed on the label before buying monk fruit sweeteners. In many products called "pure monk fruit," other additives are combined with monk fruit extract. Some contain erythritol, which can cause bloating and stomach upset.

How can I use monk fruit sweetener?

Here are some ways sugar can be replaced with a more natural alternative:

  • Use it to sweeten lemonade, smoothies, and fruit juice.
  • You can use it in baking instead of sugar.
  • Sweeten coffee and tea with it.
  • You can sprinkle it on oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast.
  • Make a healthy salad dressing with it.

Monk fruit has an ultra-sweet flavor which means a little bit goes a long way. You should read the package instructions before adding the product to your favorite recipes because each product is different. As a cup-for-cup equivalent, it may not be comparable to sugar.

Directions: Use to naturally sweeten your favorite beverages and foods. Sweeten to taste using 5 to 8 drops. Shake well before using.

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