Monk fruit Extract

Is Monk Fruit and Stevia Healthy: A Complete Guide

Is monk fruit and stevia healthy? They come from nature AND they don’t have any calories? Sounds a bit too good to be true… Let’s explore.

Monk fruit or siraitia grosvenorii, the scientific name, is native to south China and Thailand and is a small melon that is part of the gourd family. Stevia or stevia rebaudiana, is native to South America and is an herb.

In both monk fruit and stevia, only a small portion of the fruit or leaf is responsible for the sweet flavor. For monk fruit, it is mostly the mogroside V molecule that has the sweet taste and for stevia, it is the stevioside and rebaudioside. You must isolate each of these compounds to get the sweet flavor and when you do, it is almost 300 times sweeter than table sugar.

Monk fruit and stevia both fall under the category of natural low-calorie sweeteners (LCS). The products made from them provide a sweet taste and have no caloric value. Generally, we recommend limiting or avoiding all low calorie sweeteners. Many people use LCS’s to limit calories, but focusing on calorie consumption isn’t the answer. We might save on some meaningless calories, but in the process, we may develop a tendency to overeat and potentially damage internal organs. LCS’s may also cause an alteration of taste buds and food preferences, leading to sugar addiction.

You may hear things like: The Chinese have been eating monk fruit for centuries OR the natives of South America have been eating the Stevia leaf for centuries. We believe this to be true. The big difference today is in the processing. For centuries, these populations have been eating the whole fruit or herb or a minimally processed version like tea or juice. 

In the past few decades, technologies have been developed to refine and, in many cases, highly process the leaf and gourd to remove 96% or more of the raw stevia leaf or monk fruit that doesn’t taste good.

In addition to this high level of processing, the products you see on the shelves contain many other ingredients besides stevia or monk fruit in the raw. So let’s examine: is monk fruit and stevia healthy?

Is Monk Fruit and Stevia Healthy: They Contain Other Questionable Ingredients

The biggest issue we have with monk fruit and stevia sweeteners is that they usually contain other questionable ingredients such as erythritol, glycerine, and natural flavors.

Erythritol Makes Up Most of the Granule or Powder Sweeteners

Most powder or granule types of monk fruit sweeteners on the market are actually mostly erythritol (a sugar alcohol) mixed with some monk fruit. Sugar alcohols are strongly linked to GI distress. Studies have shown that erythritol is less problematic than other sugar alcohols, but it is also relatively new and has also only been on the market since the 1990s. Also, erythritol provides no nutritional benefits. Basically, it provides a sweet taste, passes through your body without really being digested and mostly leaves via urine. So, while erythritol may not be the worst sweetener out there, we still choose more nutrient-dense and less processed options like whole fruit, raw honey, pure maple syrup, and organic coconut sugar. We want the food we are eating to actually be providing nutrients, not just “likely not cause harm at least none we’ve found yet.”

Some granule or powder brands use dextrose or other types of artificial sweeteners as fillers like maltose or dextrose. Dextrose is a processed form of sugar generally made from wheat and corn (which are two of the crops most treated with glyphosate) and is processed by the body the same way glucose is. So, if you’re buying stevia or monk fruit to avoid sugar rushes or calories, dextrose pretty much cancels out those benefits.

Liquid Forms Usually Contain Glycerine and Natural Flavors

Many liquid drop forms of monk fruit and stevia sweeteners are glycerine-based. Glycerine, or glycerol, is a sugar alcohol that is mostly made from vegetable oil (mainly coconut, soy and palm), although it can also be made from animal fats and petroleum (non-food grade type). Like erythritol, glycerine is not necessarily “bad”, but it can be hard to know exactly what plants the glycerine was made from, and there are no studies showing nutritional benefits of glycerine, besides a few small ones possibly linking it to improved hydration. Again, we prefer choosing food that is nutrient-dense and less processed. 

Many liquid forms of monk fruit sweetener are also flavored with natural flavors. Both natural and artificial flavors can mess with your taste buds. They are designed to manipulate your tastebuds and have been shown to make food addictive, leading to unhealthy food cravings.

Natural flavors can and likely do contain synthetic chemicals such as polysorbate 80, a chemical additive that has been shown to compromise GI function and alter nutrient absorption among other harmful things, propylene glycol, another chemical that has been tied to a range of health issues including skin reactions, increased risk of cancer, and neurodevelopmental issues, BHA a chemical shown to cause cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), natural flavors will often have some solvents and preservatives—and that makes up 80% to 90% of the volume.

Always read the label to see what you are really getting.

What About Stevia Itself?

Stevia is often touted as an “all natural” sweetener that has many miraculous health benefits, including lowering blood sugar, helping with weight loss, preventing cavities and more.

  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?
  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?
  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?

The reality is that the powder you buy in containers at the store today and the stevia that is used in “sugar free” food is VERY different from the real, whole stevia plant that originated in South America.

In order to become the products that we see on the shelves, stevia leaves are processed via a long and complicated process involving solvents, alcohols, steam, and lots of energy and machinery. We can’t say for certain how this processing affects the product, but after a plant goes through multiple stages of extraction, purification, separation, and more, it’s pretty far from where it started.

Also, for every study that touts the health benefits of stevia, you can find another study that shows the dangers.

Stevia side effects can include bloating, nausea, dizziness, kidney damage, allergic reactions, low blood pressure, endocrine disruption, and more. In fact, there is a daily recommended limit for stevia. And if you want to explore the very dark side of stevia, there are rodent studies that say stevia creates a “highly mutagenic” compound when eaten. Gut flora breaks down the sweet-tasting steviol glycosides into steviol. This compound mutates DNA. Further, lab research using human fecal matter and their associated bacterial colonies produced the same side effect, steviol. Stevia consumption has not been studied long term in children. 

Given the conflicting opinions and the high level of processing involved, we stay away from stevia. ​​But stevia is tricky. We choose to avoid it, but if you choose to use it, we recommend choosing the least processed form (stevia leaf or ground stevia leaf powder) and remember, organic is always better.

And Monk Fruit?

As far as marketing goes, monk fruit is the new stevia. Proponents claim many health benefits and its “natural” source. They also defend it by saying that it has been used for centuries in Asian cultures. However, we are always curious about what has been done to the foods we are eating. The monk fruit sweeteners on the shelves today are processed quite differently from the monk fruit enjoyed by Asian cultures hundreds of years ago. 

  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?
  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?
  • Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?

Monk fruit is pretty highly processed in order to get it from the whole small melon to the concentrated powder or liquid we see at the store. There are few in-depth explanations available of the details of monk fruit processing, but the general idea is juice, filter, extract.

Only a small amount of the monk fruit itself is sweet and therefore used. First, the seeds and skin of the fruit are removed. The fruit is crushed into a fruit and filtered and then the sweet molecules (mogrosides) are extracted. Considering the fact that monk fruit is difficult to grow, it spoils easily, and costs a lot to export, processed monk fruit can be expensive and taxing on the environment as well. For example, a 20g packet will need from 50 to 80 monk fruits.

Monk fruit is relatively new to the market, and there are no long-term studies on the effects of the sweetener on children. When there are few or no studies to show the safety of a new food, I’m always conservative about giving it to my kids until there is more information.

Choose Less Processed Foods, Always

At the end of the day, you can do a quick search to find either a plethora of “health benefits” or “a lot of side effects,” depending on what you want to find. The data is nuanced and can be misleading.

Just like any other food‌, the less processed the better. The same principle applies to both monk fruit and stevia. Because both are often ultra processed and mixed with other types of sugar or fillers, one has to question any health benefits that advertisements claim.

It’s not always what’s in the food, but what has been done to the food. Pop-Tarts have some strawberries in them (maybe), but do you think that any of the nutritional value of a real, whole strawberry is left in the Pop-Tart form? No way. When food is subjected to extreme, large-scale processing, the result is usually far from what you started with.

So to sum it up, is monk fruit and stevia healthy? For most of the products in the grocery store, we think no. We lump monk fruit and stevia in with the ongoing craze of low calorie sweeteners. Just because something is free of calories, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. This craze is a misguided response to the worsening health issues from overconsumption of sugar, seed oils, and other low-quality ingredients in processed foods. 

sugar spectrum healthy sugar mindset
Is monk fruit and stevia healthy?

In our opinion, organic cane sugar or coconut sugar is a better choice than these low-calorie sweeteners. Even better would be raw honey, pure maple syrup, organic molasses, or whole fruit.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Naj

    What sugar substitute would you recommend that’s nutrient dense and low carb for a Type 1 Diabetic?

    1. Haley Scheich

      This isn’t medical advice. Please talk to your physician about this first.

      In general though, type 1 diabetics do better with as little sugar as possible: a low glycemic and low glycemic load fruit like berries and other low sugar fruits.
      And if you want sugar, less refined is always better. Follow our sugar spectrum as what we what we think are the most optimal sugars to consume. But always talk to your doctor first.

  2. Britani


    For Adults, what do you suggest in place of Monkfruit packets in your coffee?

    1. Haley Scheich

      Hi Britani! We recommend more natural sugars which we outline in our article on ranking the sugars.

      I typically use a bit of raw honey or organic maple syrup when I want to add a bit of sweetness to my coffee.

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