Secret Ingredient: Monk Fruit, the New “It” All Natural, No Calorie Sweetener
By Anne-Marie Kovacs, Chief Wife
Wow, it was nearly 6 years ago that I mentioned stevia on this blog. At the time, the ingredient was not well known, whereas now, it's found on all grocery store shelves. Though it is all natural, pure stevia has its detractors. It has a bitter aftertaste which doesn't make it a good option to sprinkle on foods. Personally, I still enjoy it in already bitter or sour drinks such as coffee, tea or lemonade. Not so good on oatmeal.
The new kid on the block of the all-natural, no calorie sweeteners is the Monk Fruit (also known as Lo Han or Luo Han). The monk fruit is a vine fruit native to China and Northern Thailand. It has been used in China for centuries to cure diabetes and obesity. Like stevia, the sweetness potency of the calorie-free monk fruit is much higher than sugar, about 150 times in this case. And, besides having zero calories, monk fruit is also loaded with antioxidants making it a nearly miraculous alternative to sugar and certainly to artificial sweeteners.
For detailed information on this sweet little fruit, you will want to visit the BioVittoria site. This company is pretty much responsible for bringing the monk fruit to the attention of the Western world. They are the largest producer of the fruit and watch over the whole supply chain process from seedling cultivation, harvesting, processing and product formulation. The company markets its product under the Fruit-Sweetness™ and has more information under the site MonkFruit.org. Basically, they're the ones with the real stuff!
I have been waiting for about 18 months to write about monk fruit because, until very recently, it was not readily available as a commercially ready consumer product. And whatever versions of monk fruit that were available were blended with various sorts of additives.
But, hurrah, at long last, you can now find monk fruit sweeteners in your grocery store sold under new brands such as Nectresse™ and Monk Fruit In The Raw (A note though: Nectresse has a small amount of sugar as one of its “natural” ingredients. I'm not sure about In The Raw's version). And more good news, monk fruit is added to more and more food products such as with Kashi which features the all natural sweeteners in many of its cereals (here's a list of products with monk fruit as an ingredient).
I had to try it. Nectresse was the brand available at the closest grocery store. I found that the taste of monk fruit is indeed as advertised: “pure, clean and sweet taste”. Its texture is finer than sugar though similarly granular, with a color more on the beige side. All in all, I think it's a GREAT alternative to sugar and to artificial sweeteners especially.
Won't you try it and let us know? I haven't researched cooking or baking with monk fruit. I would love to hear about anyone's experience with that.