Added sugars occupy an alarming amount of space in the average American’s diet. More and more families are growing increasingly conscious about their choices and how the foods they eat may impact their health and overall wellness.
Added sugars have no value in a healthy and balanced meal. Some alternatives to sugar are artificial and subject to controversy. Natural options, like stevia and monk fruit, appeal to health-conscious people seeking a plant-based solution for sweetening their foods and drinks.
Here’s what you need to know about the differences between monk fruit vs. stevia. They’re both valuable additions to your pantry, but one might be a more suitable option for most families.
What Is Monk Fruit?
Monk Fruit is a fruit that grows in Southern China, where the locals call it lo han guo. As monk fruits grow, they appear similar to green apples. They eventually ripen to an earthy brown shade, similar to a bosc pear or the skin of a kiwi.
Monk fruit has cultural significance dating back to ancient China, where it is believed that the fruit has been used medicinally as early as the 13th century. Its benefits in medical applications have not been studied or validated, but its use in food culture has been well documented.
Monk fruit is safe to eat and use as a sweetener.
Inside the monk fruit, the fruit itself looks similar to tiny bulbs of garlic when cut at a cross-section. This is the part of the fruit that provides natural sweetness. When you eat raw monk fruit, it doesn’t taste overly sugary. It has a unique fruity taste with a background flavor.
The sweetness of the fruit comes from naturally occurring compounds, called mogrosides, that are several hundred times sweeter than sugar but do not contain any calories.
Mogrosides are useful to the body as cell-protective antioxidants and impart a sweet flavor, making monk fruit one of the only alternative sweeteners with potential direct wellness benefits.
Manufacturers of monk fruit-based sweeteners will isolate these mogrosides as best as possible. In the process, they’ll also attempt to remove any of the compounds that would contribute to an aftertaste.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a leafy, shrubby plant native to South America. Stevia leaves naturally produce steviol glycosides, compounds that are sweeter than sugar and mimic the behavior of sugar without containing carbohydrates or calories.
Stevia thrives in most places. Your local home improvement store likely has stevia plants in its garden center. You can plant your own stevia at home, although extracting the sweetener from the leaves will likely prove too challenging.
Raw stevia leaves are simultaneously sweet with a naturally occurring plant bitterness. Their flavor is similar to bitter greens like arugula but with a sweet kick. Manufacturers extract the steviol glycosides from the plant's leaves and purify them to eliminate as much of the bitter flavor as possible.
The Pros and Cons of Monk Fruit
Although monk fruit is generally safe and well-received, everything has pros and cons. The best way to know if monk fruit will work for you is to try some at home and see how your family likes it.
The Pros of Monk Fruit
- It does not contain calories
- It does not impact blood sugar levels
- Naturally derived
The Cons of Monk Fruit
- Monk fruit is difficult to import and expensive to produce
- Monk fruit sweetener can be hard to find at most grocery stores
- In some applications, the aftertaste may stand out
The Pros and Cons of Stevia
Stevia has been a favorite natural sweetener among the wellness community. Even though it’s generally well-received, there may be a few drawbacks. Stevia may not be suitable for everyone, and this is something you’ll need to take into consideration.
The Pros of Stevia
- Has no impact on blood sugar
- It comes in many forms
- Is easy to find, even in packets at restaurants
The Cons of Stevia
- The aftertaste of Stevia is similar to licorice or anise seed
- Stevia may cause bloating or gas
- Stevia can cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to plants like ragweed or sunflowers
Always Check the Ingredients List for Additives
Additives are common in natural sweeteners because these sweeteners are costly to produce. Sweeteners like monk fruit have to be imported from the other side of the world, and like with most hard-to-find imported goods – this usually leads to a higher price tag.
Manufacturers will attempt to reduce the price of monk fruit sweeteners by packing them with additives like erythritol (sugar alcohol), dextrose, and maltodextrin. If you don’t have any objections to using these sweeteners, this may not be a problem for you.
If you’re looking for pure monk fruit extract, it might be more challenging to find a monk fruit sweetener that suits your needs.
Stevia sweeteners may also contain similar additives, especially if they’re in a liquid form. You won’t know until you read the label.
How to Use Monk Fruit and Stevia
Both monk fruit and stevia come in single-use packets that make sweetened drinks like tea and coffee easy.
While many sweeteners don’t work to perfectly substitute sugar in recipes for things like baked goods, both monk fruit, and stevia work as great substitutes. They remain stable at high temperatures and won’t interfere with cooking.
Depending on what you’re baking, you may notice that stevia and monk fruit can slightly change the texture of your baked goods. Sugar lends a naturally crispier texture to things like cookies when it caramelizes, and sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit won’t do that.
Try baking with these sweeteners to see how they work for you. You may be delighted with your end product. If you need to make a few minor tune-ups the next time, turn to the internet. You’ll likely find many tips from cooking blogs and recipe vloggers specializing in lightened-up recipes.
Monk Fruit vs. Stevia: Which is Healthier?
Both monk fruit and stevia are undoubtedly healthier than sugar. The only difference that matters is the way your family will tolerate them. If you don’t have any related allergies or digestive issues in your household, it won’t make a difference which one you choose. It’s simply a matter of personal preference.
Monk Fruit vs. Stevia: Which is Better?
Any decision you make to reduce or eliminate empty calories and added sugars from your family’s diet is good. You can use whatever sweetener works best for your family. If half of you like stevia and half of you like monk fruit, there’s no reason why you can’t have both.
Stevia is very easy to find, as it’s one of the most popular natural sugar alternatives in the United States. The only thing you’ll want to be mindful of is the potential side effects and allergic interactions with stevia. This can easily take the sweetener off the table in households where people have a bad digestive response or a relevant allergy.
Monk fruit is slightly more expensive and a little more difficult to find, but you can order it anywhere on the internet. You don’t have to worry about finding it at the grocery store if you stock up. It’s also an excellent solution for people who may be allergic to stevia and people whose digestive systems don’t agree with stevia.
Why Hiya Uses Monk Fruit in Our Children’s Multivitamin
Putting sugar in a children’s multivitamin doesn’t make much sense. We’ll never understand why the gummy vitamin companies do it. Something that is supposed to enhance a child’s health and wellness shouldn’t contain added sugar. That’s why our once-daily children’s chewable multivitamins are naturally sweetened with monk fruit extract.
When it comes down to monk fruit vs. stevia, monk fruit won for us. Monk fruit extract is the only natural sweetener with no known side effects. It also has a minimal aftertaste that easily disappears into our organic fruit and vegetable blend flavors. We chose monk fruit because we want kids to be healthy, and monk fruit was the obvious choice.
Our vitamins are inclusive. It’s vegan, non-GMO, eco-friendly, dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, and made in the USA. We wanted to create a multivitamin that was suitable for as many children as possible, and that’s exactly what we did. Best of all, kids love the taste.