Monk Fruit vs Stevia: What’s the Difference?
When searching for natural sweeteners that are sugar-free, you might be wondering about the difference between monk fruit vs stevia (two of the most popular options). While there are other sugar-free sweeteners, these are typically artificially made and potentially dangerous – some can cause unwanted bloating, digestive problems, or inflammation.
Monk fruit and stevia are a great way to add a sweet taste to your meals or drinks without overloading on added calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. When comparing stevia vs monk fruit, there are some pros and cons to be aware of. Keep reading to learn all about these!
Monk Fruit vs Stevia
What is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit is more properly known as Luo Han Guo—a plant from the Cucurbitaceae family. Physically, it’s a smallish, green gourd that resembles some sort of melon.
Monk fruit grows naturally in China and certain parts of Thailand. Originally, Buddhist monks in the 13th century began harvesting and eating the fruit, which is how it became known as “monk” fruit.
Monk fruit eventually made its way to the United States in the early 20th century, courtesy of the National Geographic Society. Nowadays, it's usually sold in dried form because it spoils quickly and does not taste good when fresh.
Monk fruit is unique because it's incredibly sweet, but it contains no sugar. The sweetness of the fruit comes from antioxidants known as mogrosides, which are metabolized differently than natural sugars.
Antioxidants are extracts from natural plants that help our body fight free radicals; they’re responsible for giving monk fruit its sweet taste with zero sugar.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a sweet-tasting plant extract from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, native to Brazil and Paraguay. Humans have used stevia to sweeten food and drinks since the 16th century, and it's now also grown in China and Japan.
In terms of taste, stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than regular table sugar.
Stevia’s advantage over regular table sugar or artificial sweeteners are similar to the advantages of monk fruit – zero calories, zero carbs, zero sugars.
Benefits of Stevia vs Monk Fruit
- Lowers risk of obesity & diabetes
- Contains many antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol, which can greatly reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- May help manage cholesterol
- Helps satisfy and keeps you full longer
- May benefit gut flora
- Lowers risk of obesity & diabetes
- Promotes anti-inflammation
- Reduces allergies
- Reduces damage from free radicals
Regardless, all these benefits are just a bonus to the fact that they contain no sugar and don’t raise your blood sugar!
Stevia vs Monk Fruit: Side Effects
The Cons of Stevia
Although stevia isn’t currently approved by the FDA, it has shown no dangerous side effects (aside from some small rare things like gas, nausea, or bloating). In some cases, stevia can cause allergic reactions when the stevia extract itself is not entirely pure and is mixed with someone you’re allergic to.
Some people also notice an unpleasant aftertaste with stevia, but this usually only occurs if you have added too much.
The Cons of Monk Fruit
Does monk fruit have any side effects? Short answer: no.
It’s generally a safe fruit to eat for adults, children and even pregnant or nursing women. The FDA approved monk fruit in 2010, but the fruit can still cause some digestive issues if you eat too much of it. Some rare (but possible) side effects include:
- Upset stomach
Again, these side effects are very rare.
The only other con is that some people notice an unpleasant aftertaste, but this usually only occurs if you have added too much of the sweetener.
Is Stevia or Monk Fruit Better For You?
Monk fruit and stevia are both no calorie sweeteners. They have zero impact on your blood sugar levels, and they possess similar health benefits.
When choosing between monk fruit and stevia, you should also think about whether you’re allergic to any members of the gourd family of fruits. If so, monk fruit might not be for you.
Make sure you’re choosing pure stevia or pure monk fruit (but, pure monk fruit is harder to come by). It’s easy to buy products at grocery stores that have added chemicals or sugars in them that could cause allergies or other side effects. You can even grow your own stevia plant!
In addition, look for products you enjoy that are sweetened with stevia and monk fruit and try them out! Both sweeteners are growing in popularity, meaning new products are created frequently.
You can find plenty of alternatives to your favorite products (such as stevia sweetened protein powder, sodas, energy drinks, protein bars, icecream, etc.)
Fortunately, cooking or baking with stevia or monk fruit is easy. Both are heat-stable, which means that you can use them in recipes with heat up to 400˚. That said, some recipes might taste strange with stevia or monk fruit, but it’s fun to experiment!
Bottom Line – Monk Fruit vs Stevia
Monk fruit and Stevia both have tons of health benefits. Plus, while many artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on our gut health, monk fruit and stevia aren’t artificial (meaning they don’t usually cause these issues). These natural plants have the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners without the harmful effects on our gut.
Also, when comparing monk fruit vs stevia, a big subject of discussion is the aftertaste. Some people experience a bitter aftertaste they can't stand, but this typically signals that you've added too much of the sweetener (which can be easy to do since it is much sweeter than regular sugar).