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Monk Fruit vs Stevia: Which Natural Sweetener is Best?

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Monk fruit extract and stevia are two of the most common natural sweeteners. They’re a great way to add sweetness without having to rely on sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Stevia is still the most well-known of the two, which is why this post looks at monk fruit vs stevia. Both sweeteners have their advantages and there are key reasons for choosing one over the other.

Stevia

Types of Stevia

Source: Stevia comes from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana.

Active Compounds: Steviol glycosides, including stevioside and rebaudioside. Most of the sweetness comes from the rebaudioside, while stevioside is associated with potential health benefits (1,2). Stevioside also has a sight bitter aftertaste.

Sweetness: 30 to 150 times as sweet as sugar. The sweetness can vary depending on the formulation, as rebaudioside and stevioside have different levels of sweetness (3).

Types of Product

Stevia is found in a few different forms.

  • High-purity stevia glycoside extracts. These extracts are processed and don’t include all of the compounds present in stevia. This is the type of stevia that is typically found in products.
  • Powdered stevia. This type of stevia is typically processed as well. The amount of processing and combination of compounds may vary from brand to brand.
  • Liquid stevia. Liquid stevia can be easier to use, although the processing is similar to the powdered option. In both cases, some brands are better than others. For example, Better Stevia is a good liquid stevia choice, while Mommy Knows Best has an appealing stevia powder product.
  • Whole leaf stevia. This version is unprocessed. As such, the sweetness is more subtle and the bitter aftertaste is more pronounced. You can also find products that consist of crushed leaves, which have the same properties.

​Stevia is also common in sweetener blends. These products contain two or more different sweeteners, such as stevia and a sugar alcohol.  

Stevia Safety

Most people consider stevia to be safe, especially as it is of natural origin.

However, only high-purity stevia glycoside extracts have FDA approval for food use and are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). This is a highly processed form, which makes it less appealing.

Whole leaf stevia does not have the same level of approval.

Advantages

  • ​Contains no calories and has a glycemic index of 0.
  • ​Stevia is one of the most popular natural sweeteners. As a result, there are many products to choose from. Stevia is also a common choice in recipes.
  • ​It is a low-carb sweetener and can be used on the keto diet.
  • The whole leaf form may offer some health benefits.
  • There are multiple types to choose from, including powdered, liquid and whole leaf stevia.
  • Stevia isn’t a sugar alcohol and hasn’t been associated with digestive issues.

​Disadvantages

  • ​Some people struggle with stevia’s bitter aftertaste, especially in the whole leaf form.
  • ​Many stevia products are processed.
  • ​You need to read labels carefully. Some products will contain multiple ingredients, which may not be immediately obvious.

​Monk Fruit

Monk fruit extract

Source: Monk fruit extract comes from the flesh of the monk fruit, which is also called luo han guo. The fruit is a type of subtropical melon and has a long history in Chinese medicine.

Various processes are used to obtain the sweetener. Some companies rely on chemical methods for extraction and processing, while others use fermentation and more natural approaches. With so much variation out there, it’s important to check the processes for each company.

Active Compounds: Mogrosides. Like the glucosides from stevia, mogrosides are intensely sweet and have a slight aftertaste. However, the aftertaste is very different and often less noticeable that what you find with stevia. 

Sweetness: Roughly 200 to 250 times as sweet as sugar.

Types of Product

Monk fruit tends to be excessively sweet on its own. To get around this, most products combine monk fruit with at least one other sweetener.

A popular example is Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener. This product contains monk fruit and erythritol. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, one that is popular for low-carb dieters. The sweetener from Lakanto is designed to act as a 1:1 sugar replacement – making it easy to use.

Some products do contain monk fruit and nothing more.

However, product reviews are typically mixed. Some people find that monk fruit is too intense on its own, while others mention an unappealing aftertaste.

Monk Fruit Safety

There are no known side effects of monk fruit as a sweetener and the sweetener is approved in various countries (4).

The biggest limitation is that monk fruit hasn’t been studied as extensively as stevia.

Advantages

  • ​Is calorie-free with a glycemic index of 0.
  • ​It is a low-carb sweetener and ideal for the keto diet.
  • ​Has been linked to various health benefits and contains antioxidants.
  • There are no significant side effects.
  • Does not have a bitter aftertaste, making it ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the bitterness of stevia.

​Disadvantages

  • ​Is less common than stevia and is typically more expensive.
  • ​Can be difficult to find a product that only contains monk fruit.
  • ​There has been less safety research into the sweetener.
  • It may be more difficult to find products where the sweetener has been extracted naturally.
  • The sweetener is included in fewer recipes. The right amount for substitution may not be obvious either.

​Monk Fruit vs Stevia

While they have their differences, monk fruit and stevia are very similar. They are both natural sweeteners that are low in carbs and are sweeter than sugar.

  • ​Stevia is the best choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive sweetener or if you plan to bake using the sweetener.
  • ​Monk fruit is ideal for anyone who struggles with the aftertaste of stevia. It is also appealing for cases where you’re only using a small amount of sweetener.

​There is also the potential for stevia and monk fruit blends. The sweeteners complement one another well, as monk fruit decreases the aftertaste of stevia, while the stevia helps to lower the cost (5).

Unfortunately, this combination isn’t commonly found in products. The brand Whole Earth has various options that contain both sweeteners, but these include other ingredients as well, making them less appealing. 

​Stevia tends to be more popular as a sweetener and that trend is likely to continue. As some observers have highlighted, monk fruit only grows in a limited area in China, making it difficult to upscale sweetener production.

​The difference means that companies can consider the use of stevia in their products, even on a large scale. The same is not true for monk fruit. If the sweetener does make its way into prepared products, this would mostly occur through specialized brands.

​Final Thoughts

Natural sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia are easy to use and aren’t associated with side effects. Even so, it’s best to practice moderation. Whole foods will always offer more health advantages and many great recipes don’t need any type of sweetener.

There is also the concern that excess consumption of highly sweetened foods will increase cravings for sweetness. This can happen faster with alternative sweeteners, as they’re much sweeter than sugar.

So, by all means, enjoy monk fruit or stevia – just keep an eye on how much you consume.

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Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use. 

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