Everyone promises that they’ve found the next best alternative to sugar.
At first, it was controversial artificial sweeteners that many people would ultimately seek to avoid more than real sugar. Then it was syrups and extracts from different plants that sometimes caused unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
Enter monk fruit extract, which is what we use in our children’s multivitamin. It provides a natural sweetness without the side effects, the cavities, or the unwanted weight gain that other calorie-free or low-calorie sweeteners all seem to bring along.
So, here is everything you need to know about this awesome natural sweetener.
What is Monk Fruit?
The luo han guo plant grows freely throughout China and Thailand. When it grows, it’s the same size and color as a lime. Harvested monk fruit turns a brown color, and a look inside shows that it’s nothing like a citrus fruit. The inside of a monk fruit is packed with flesh and seeds, almost peeling apart like a clove of garlic.
The skin and the seeds are removed from the monk fruit, leaving only its sweet flesh. The juice is extracted from the fruit, leaving us with the valuable part of the monk fruit. The sweetness of monk fruit comes from the natural compounds called mogrosides that the fruit produces when it fully ripens.
This healthy sweetness can be used in food, drinks, and supplements to make them taste better without adding any sugar or calories.
How Does Monk Fruit Compare to Other Sweeteners?
Using monk fruit sweeteners is a no-brainer. They don’t even begin to compare to many zero calorie alternatives. Monk fruit sweeteners provide all the benefits with none of the drawbacks that come from sugar or its artificial counterparts.
The white table sugar used to sweeten foods, drinks, and baked goods has absolutely no nutritional value. There are no vitamins or minerals in refined sugar. They’ve all been removed when the sugar cane was processed, leaving behind a byproduct called molasses. The molasses is the runoff that holds all of the trace minerals. Since molasses is not as cloyingly sweet and its texture makes it difficult to work with in most applications, it fell out of favor decades ago.
Instead, sugar adds sweetness at 4 calories per gram, adding a source of empty calories to our diet, and adding to empty carbs that don't do much but satisfy cravings for that sweet taste.
Sugar also happens to be one of bacteria’s favorite foods. When sugar enters our mouth or our gut, the bad bacteria that have managed to find their way in are delighted to find this source of food. Oral bacteria excrete the sugar into enamel eroding acid. Bad bacteria in our gut use sugar to upset our bacterial balance, or even cause yeast infections.
There have been concerns of illness or disease being spread by artificial sweeteners like aspartame in the past. While there aren’t any confirmed cases of artificial sweeteners directly attributing to disease, the speculation alone was enough to scare many consumers.
The biggest and most established problem with artificial sweeteners is that our body doesn’t really know what to do with them. It cannot digest them and opts to just force them through instead. This can cause tummy trouble like diarrhea or excessive gas in many people. In fact, sorbitol is marketed as a laxative just as often as it is marketed as a sweetener.
Stevia sweeteners aren't a bad sugar substitute. They simply may not be the best option. While this non-nutritive sweetener is derived from plants and won’t raise your blood sugar levels, it still comes with some drawbacks.
Real stevia is very hard to find at the grocery store. Most of the stuff that comes in packets is actually lab-created stevia, designed to mimic the real thing.
Stevia’s natural flavor is similar to licorice. People who don’t like licorice may not like stevia, especially with the apparent aftertaste stevia comes with. People who are allergic to chrysanthemums, sunflower, ragweed, daisies, or other asteraceae plants may find that they’re also allergic to stevia.
Stevia cannot be naturally processed by the body, and some people experience negative gastrointestinal side effects from using stevia. Although these effects aren’t as significant as the effects of sorbitol, no one wants to experience the effects of a mild laxative when they don’t actually need one.
The Benefits of Monk Fruit
Since the body is able to efficiently process monk fruit, it won’t cause any of the side effects that other alternative sweeteners cause. There are no reports of excessive gas, bloating, or laxative effects from the use of monk fruit sweeteners.
It’s one of few alternative sweeteners that doesn’t come with any of those uncomfortable drawbacks.
Since monk fruit is significantly structurally different from sugar, bacteria have no interest in it either. Monk fruit has no negative impact on the microbiome of the gut or the mouth. It won’t contribute to cavities or tooth decay.
The mogrosides that make monk fruit sweet are even antioxidants. Antioxidants work to protect your cells against damage from things called free radicals, which may contribute to some diseases and heart disease.
The sweetness of monk fruit is something that is actively healthy for you -- what more could you ask for?
Why We Use Monk Fruit in Our Children’s Multivitamin
The entire purpose of taking a multivitamin is to enhance your health. Every multivitamin you take is a conscious effort to feel better and fuel your body. Using sugar or an artificial sweetener with negative side effects directly contradicts the purpose.
Why bother taking a vitamin that’s going to upset your stomach or feed the bacteria in your body? Kids deserve better than what many other multivitamin companies give them.
Monk fruit was the obvious choice. It’s the only natural sweetener with no side effects, and it gives our multivitamin a little boost of helpful antioxidants. Not to mention, it makes for a taste that kids love without the mass amounts of sugar found in gummy “vitamins” across the market.
Monk fruit may not be the most well known natural sweetener, but it’s certainly the most beneficial in our opinion. Try monk fruit sweetener in your household -- you may be surprised how quickly it becomes a recip favorite. Your kids get the sweetness they crave without the health dings they can do without!