Monk Fruit Benefits and Use

Photo: K8

What's the scoop on sugar? Sugar is one of those foods that we’re often told to consume in moderation. Not only can it spike your blood sugar leading to a rush and a crash, but over consuming sugar can lead to a slew of health issues. When on the hunt for a healthier alternative, many turn to more natural sources of sugar such as coconut sugar or maple syrup. They have a lower Glycemic Index than regular table sugar, but they will still have an impact on your blood sugar.

So, when looking for a sweetener that won't spike your blood sugar, you will find that the best options are artificial sweeteners. We also came to this conclusion when looking for a sweetener for chocho. We decided to supplement our organic coconut sugar with organic monk fruit extract to maximize flavor potential and chochos qualities. However, the market for artificial sweeteners can be hard to navigate which is why we thought it would be helpful to break down some popular forms of artificial sweeteners, their purported benefits and their possible health impacts.

SACCHARIN, ASPARTAME, & SUCRALOSE//

Saccharin is commonly known as Sweet and Low/ Sweet’N Low® and can be up to 700 times sweeter than table sugar. It is made in a lab through a process of oxidizing the chemicals o-toluene sulfonamide or phthalic anhydride to make a white, crystalline powder (cite). For a period of time products that contained saccharin had to have a warning label on them, as it was possibly linked to the development of bladder cancer. But, in 2000, the National Toxicology Program of the National Institute of Health suggested that saccharin be removed from the list of potential carcinogens. 

Aspartame is a nutritive sweetener, meaning that it does have some calories in it, that is commonly known as Nutrasweet® , Equal® , or Sugar Twin®. Although it does contain calories it is considered a High Intensity Sweetener because it is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar so you will use much less of it for the same result. It is often found in foods that are “diet” such as diet soda or sugar free desserts. It is made from the combination of two amino acids and methanol. Although the FDA has approved it for consumption, researchers remain skeptical of its safety. Studies have found that aspartame causes cancer in rodents and a study done by Harvard found that consuming aspartame may increase the risk of cancer in humans. 

Photo: Glen Carrie

Sucralose is widely known as Splenda®. It is about 600 times sweeter than regular sugar and can be found in a variety of foods like baked goods, drinks, gum, gelatins, and frozen desserts. It is often found in foods that have been heated or must be heated (like frozen dinners) because unlike aspartame, it retains its properties even when heated. It is made from chemically reacting sugar with chlorine. Although sucralose if used in many items, studies show it may have health impacts.

An independent research study in Italy found that sucralose caused leukemia and related blood cancers in mice that were exposed to it throughout their lifetime. Other research has found that sucralose may negatively impact gut bacteria and that use of Splenda significantly reduces beneficial bacteria and causes gastrointestinal issues. Similarly, another study found that the use of sucralose and saccharin were closely correlated to incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) around the world. Although correlation doesn't equal causation, The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that people with gastrointestinal issues avoid such artificial sweeteners (cite). 

In fact, The Center for Science in the Public Interest classifies all three sweeteners, aspartame, saccharine, and sucrose as a food additive to avoid (cite). Saccharin and Sucralose have been shown to impact gut bacteria which may lead to inflammation and digestion issues, and gastrointestinal issues. 

STEVIA// 

Often people may turn to stevia, but it looks like stevia may not be a good option either. Stevia is derived from a plant, the stevia rebaudiana, a shrub belonging to the family Ateracea. It is 250 times sweeter than sugar, and has been shown to be non-carcinogenic (does not cause cancer). However, stevia has also been shown to possibly alter gut microbiota, as many bacteria are unable to break it down into digestible components (cite).

Stevia may also cause side effects like bloating, gas, and nausea (cite). Because chocho is great for digestion, we did not want to taint or highly digestible product with something that may reduce gut health and cause gas and bloating. Additionally, stevia may be grown on deforested land and cultivation may contribute to further deforestation, which Mikuna does not support. If these popular sweeteners are off the table, what is left?

MONK FRUIT// 

Our concern for the health of our consumers is why we are using monk fruit. We didn't want a doubt in our mind about the possible health impacts of an artificial sweetener when producing chocho, so we went with monk fruit extract. Although on the pricier end of artificial sweeteners, we knew it would be worth it. Monk fruit comes from a plant, a small green gourd actually, that is grown in Southeast Asia.

It gets its name from its original users: Buddist monks in the 13th century. Monk fruit extract is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, and has no impact on blood sugar levels. Research shows that monk fruit extract gets its sweetness from an antioxidant called mogrosides, which means it has the potential to act as defense against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. And, unlike some of the relatively newer chemically made sweeteners on the market which may have effects we have yet to learn about, monk fruit has been used for hundreds of years (cite)

So, you can see why we decided to go with monk fruit extract when formulating our chocho. It is a plant based sweetener that provides flavor without negative effects on your gut or your health. Not only does it provide the sweet flavor we were looking for, but it also may add to the antioxidant effects of chocho. Big wins in our book!

If you have any questions about any of our ingredients or products please feel free to reach out to us at info@mikunafoods.com

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