Sweetener – Stevia & Monk Fruit Sweeteners

In this series, we explore sweeteners. In this post, we cover the plant-derived calorie-free sweeteners stevia and monk fruit.

Updated: October 23, 2023

What is stevia sweetener? 

Stevia sweetener is a calorie-free sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant. This sweetener is extracted and purified before being sold commercially because the plant leaves and crude extract have not undergone safety assessments.
Stevia sweetener is approximately 300x as sweet as traditional table sugar, so less is needed when added to foods and beverages.

What is monk fruit sweetener?

Monk fruit sweeteners are derived from the small melon called luo han gu and are native to parts of southeast Asia. Like stevia, this is a calorie-free sweetener.
Monk fruit sweeteners are approximately 100-250x sweeter than traditional table sugar. This isn’t as sweet as stevia, but it still means less is used when added to foods and beverages, as compared to traditional sugar.

Are monk fruit and stevia sweeteners all-natural?

While these sweeteners are derived from naturally occurring plants and melons, they are often chemically processed to create a more pure and potent product.

The processing does not impact the health outcomes or the safety of the final product.

Are monk fruit and stevia sweeteners 100% pure?

Often, manufacturers will blend monk fruit and stevia with other ingredients, typically plant-based, ingredients to make it possible for us to accurately measure, pour, and use the ingredients as we would sugar.
Blended ingredients may include,
  • Dextrose
  • Erythritol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Xylitol

Are monk fruit and stevia sweeteners healthy?

Using calorie-free stevia or monk fruit sweeteners instead of traditional sugar or other calorie-rich sweeteners can help improve health by reducing the number of calories consumed.
Additionally, these ingredients can help individuals manage medical conditions such as diabetes because they generally do not contribute to blood sugar spikes.

Are monk fruit and stevia sweeteners safe?

When consumed in moderation, monk fruit and stevia are safe (https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/aspartame-and-other-sweeteners-food).

Monk fruit and stevia are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) ingredients, meaning manufacturers aren’t required to perform the same rigorous safety studies as artificial sweeteners. This doesn’t mean they cause harm, but it does mean there are fewer long-term studies on these ingredients.  
It’s important to note that any sweetener should be used in moderation to ensure safety.

Adding more of a sweetener than recommended based on the perception that it's all-natural and, therefore, healthy can inadvertently cause harm. All-natural does not mean automatically safe. 

Remember, the dose makes the poison, and too much of anything, including monk fruit and stevia sweeteners, may cause harm in high enough doses.

Are there health benefits to using stevia- and monk fruit-based sweeteners rather than artificial sweeteners?

Unless you have an allergy that prevents you from using a product, stevia, and monk fruit sweeteners are as safe to consume as other artificial sweeteners and offer no additional health benefits.

The good news.

The sweeteners are safe for us to consume in moderation. Additionally, incorporating stevia and monk fruit sweeteners into a balanced and varied diet can be a positive step toward reducing our sugar intake and managing our overall health.

If you have any questions about foods and ingredients, please send us an email or submit your idea to us at go.msu.edu/cris-idea

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