Over the course of the past couple of weeks I have had a few different people ask me for my thoughts on Monk Fruit Sugar. At Wilcox Wellness & Fitness we promote a whole foods based diet. That means eating foods that are as close to mother nature as possible, and are minimally processed. When ever I hear about new sugar alternatives on the market the first thing I wonder about is the extent to which that product was processed, taking it away from it's original form the way that mother nature intended.
Another sugar alternative that I have been asked about is Stevia. This is a great example of a natural product being processed into the product that you buy in the store. There are natural forms that are made into tinctures from the leaves, but many forms are highly processed and go through dozens of steps before making it into the bottle that you buy in the store.
Monk fruit sugar isn't as processed as Stevia, but it is a few steps away from its fully natural form. Monk fruit produces an antioxidant called mogrosides that is responsible for its sweetness. Monk fruit sugar is 150 - 250 times sweeter than sugar, and due to this highly intense sweetness the final product is mixed with other ingredients to level out the sweetness to something more palatable. Monk fruit sugar contains the sugar alcohol erythritol, which helps to balance out the sweetness as well as dextrose in some versions.
Erythritol is one sugar alcohol among many. Another sugar alcohol you may be familiar with is xylitol. Unlike xylitol, erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted through the urine, so this helps to reduce the gastrointestinal effects commonly associated with sugar alcohols. Other sugar alcohols travel to the intestines and colon where they ferment and can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. Some sources report gastrointestinal issues even with erythritol, so it is possible that monk fruit sugar can cause problems for some.
Monk fruit sugar is a new comer to the sugar alternative scene, so there is limited research on the long term effects. Some known issues to be aware of include:
Furthermore, there is something to be said for providing our bodies with intensely sweet flavors all of the time.
Frances Largemen-Roth, registered dietician, editor for Health Magazine, and author of "Eating in Color" warns that Americans are so used to food tasting incredibly sweet, and cautions against overuse of artificial and naturally derived, but calorie-free sweeteners, that can taste hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.
It is also thought that providing our bodies with a sweet flavor that doesn't spike blood sugar can actually confuse our bodies. Spiking our blood sugar is not a good thing to do, but when our bodies are expecting that spike but doesn't get it there can be consequences to how our bodies recognize the food in general. This is a concept that is being further studied.
Any sugar should be used in moderation, but we recommend using a whole food sugar when a little touch of sweetness is wanted. Honey and Maple Syrup are great whole food options. Both of these are not processed and contain some nutritional value, although not significant. Another whole food sugar that is a good option when a more traditional sugar flavor is wanted is Sucanant. Sucanant (Sucrose natural) is evaporated cane sugar, and retains the nutritional benefits of cane juice. Again, all sugars should be used sparingly, but looking to the most natural source is going to be best unless you have health issues that require you to avoid sugar.
Hi! My name is Allison Hopkins and I am the owner of Wilcox Wellness & Fitness in Brunswick, ME. I am excited to bring WILCOX to Brunswick and share in my passion for living a great life through health and fitness.