Alright you sweet tooths! I’ve got a new sweetener for you that is low in calories, won’t raise blood sugar levels, and is all natural…and it doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste that most people can’t stand about stevia. Introducing Luo Han Guo, aka Monk Fruit.
Monk fruit has been used in China as a sweet curative for centuries as a traditional medicine for several ailments. It is a cousin of the cucumber, being a member of the greater gourd family.
Luo Han Guo is made by slowly drying the monk fruit and then processing it into a powder. What makes it sweet are natural substances contained in the fruit called mongrosides — 300 times sweeter than sucrose.
Mongrosides belong to a group of compounds called triterpene glycosides. Though glycosides tickle our sweet taste buds, the body handles them differently from carbohydrates: insulin levels do not rise in response to their consumption because they don’t break down into usable energy units.
Glycosides from mongrosides do more than tantalize the taste buds. They are presently under investigation as potential tumor inhibitors, and to help manage diabetes and defend against heart disease. The thought is that mongrosides may help to protect against heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. And in a Japanese laboratory study from 2003, it was found that certain mongrosides from luo han guo showed “remarkable inhibitory effects” on a mouse model of skin cancer.
In addition, the mongrosides in luo han guo still have their antioxidant properties intact. In China, teas made from luo han guo are also known to relieve throat inflammation or cough, and are used as a remedy for colds, gastrointestinal disorders, and as a blood purifier.
I’ve known about this sweetener for a couple years, but have just recently tried it for myself. I’m impressed! The flavor is pleasant, the powder dissolves in beverages with no sediment, and the taste is unaffected by cooking. This makes it an ideal natural replacement for artificial sweeteners in beverages AND baked goods! Woohoo to that!
When purchasing Luo Han Guo, be sure to double check the ingredients list. Many are combined with alcohol sugars and/or other undesirable fillers. The one I purchased has inulin (a prebiotic), and silicon (to prevent anticaking…I’d rather not have this one, but alas…).