Processed cane sugar (do I even need to say this?) really isn’t good for you. But we Westerners have cultivated such a sweet tooth that it’s a hard habit for many to break. Diet foods and especially diet drinks sweetened with artificial sugars are still a popular alternative, but I’d argue that in many ways, those are actually even worse than cane sugar.
There are other unprocessed natural sweeteners that are okay in moderation—but nearly all of them still turn into glucose in the bloodstream, which means those trying to follow a low carb diet, those trying to get rid of a fungal overgrowth, or those trying to lower their blood sugar still need to greatly minimize even these.
So what’s left? There are only three natural sweeteners I can think of that don’t affect blood sugar levels at all: sugar alcohols (which are FODMAPs and can make everybody gassy at a certain threshold — where that threshold is varies by individual, though), stevia (which I like, but it has an aftertaste), and monk fruit.
What Monk Fruit Is
Monk fruit is a green melon that grows in the mountainous regions of southern China and in Thailand. In the literature it’s mostly called Swingle fruit, Siraitia grosvenorii, or lo han guo. In the rest of the world, since the fruits aren’t readily available, we can purchase monk fruit usually in a powdered or a liquid form.
Most fruits are sweet due to fructose, but while monk fruit does produce both fructose and glucose, its sweetness is due to a compound called mogroside. Mogrosides, like stevia, are up to 350 times sweeter than sugar. Even still, mogrosides only make up about 3.8 percent of dried monk fruit powder.
Monk Fruit for Blood Sugar
Of course, monk fruit is good for blood sugar by virtue of the fact that (if you use a pure monk fruit product and not one mixed with other sweeteners), you’re skipping the extra glucose you might otherwise be getting.
But monk fruit also directly helps control blood sugar by several other mechanisms, as well. This study shows that mogrosides actually help reduce blood sugar levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes, and also in general.
This study shows that mogrosides help to repair any damage the pancreatic beta cells might have sustained, and help to encourage those cells to secrete insulin. Meanwhile, this study shows that monk fruit activates AMPK, which improves insulin sensitivity.
This study suggests that monk fruit’s antioxidant properties help to protect against the oxidative stress produced by elevated glucose levels.
This study shows that monk fruit decreases fat accumulation in the liver, as fatty liver is very associated with insulin resistance.
Monk Fruit for The Lungs
This study shows that because one particular mogroside effectively suppresses inflammatory nitric oxide, it may be useful for pulmonary fibrosis.
It’s hard to get a great deal of mogrosides from powdered or liquid monk fruit sweetener, as monk fruit is so sweet that the taste rather prohibits it. Even so, if you have a sweet tooth, and you don’t mind the aftertaste (monk fruit has a bit of one too, just like stevia), swapping your other sweeteners for monk fruit or stevia can only be beneficial.