Keto is a notoriously ultra-low-carb diet, but that doesn’t mean all sweets are off the table. White sugar might be loaded with carbs, but there are plenty of other sweetener alternatives. Monk fruit is a popular one that’s used on ketogenic diets. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit, also referred to as lo han guo, is a Chinese melon that has commonly been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The product is extracted from the dried fruit and is one to two hundred times sweeter than white sugar.  Yet somehow it is also low in carbs and calories. One serving (3 grams) contains no fat, no protein, and 3 grams of carbs in the form of sugar alcohol. That’s virtually a zero-calorie food. 
This sweetener is often paired with other zero-calorie sweeteners because, on its own, it does not replace one-for-one in recipes. It is required in much smaller amounts to achieve comparable sweetness. This, along with a notable after taste, can make using monk fruit more challenging than other keto-friendly sweeteners.
Does Monk Fruit Affect Blood Sugar?
Most monk fruit products are paired with erythritol or other ultra-low-calorie sweeteners. Even when a product is marketed as monk fruit only, most nutrition labels reveal erythritol paired with it. Ultimately, neither erythritol nor monk fruit raise glucose levels. 
In some cases, monk fruit has been shown to stimulate insulin without raising glucose, effectively lowering blood glucose levels, rather than raising them like most other sweeteners. This may provide some benefits for individuals suffering from insulin resistance or struggle to balance blood sugar levels. 
Monk fruit also has anti-inflammatory properties that could be helpful in promoting better glucose use and balance within the body. 
Are There Downsides to Monk Fruit?
Monk fruit is one of the few non-nutritive sweeteners that does not cause significant known side effects. Typically sugar alcohols can cause some level of gastrointestinal distress, even when not over-consumed. Monk fruit does not seem to have a known tolerable upper limit. It also has GRAS status, or generally recognized as safe, but there has not been any research that examines long-term use.
Monk fruit is often paired with other sweeteners, like erythritol, because on its own it has a noticeable aftertaste that is bitter, somewhat similar to stevia.
While uncommon, some people may be allergic to monk fruit, especially those who already have allergies to other foods in the gourd family such as melon, squash, cucumber, or pumpkin.
What Do You Think About Monk Fruit?
Do you use monk fruit? If so, what are your favorite ways (or recipes) to incorporate it into your diet?
Aimee McNew, MNT is a nutritionist and researcher who focuses on women’s health, thyroid, prenatal, and postpartum wellness. She has worked in private practice and written on nutrition-related topics for a decade and is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Simon & Schuster, 2016). She is currently working on her next book.
Lohner, S., Toews, I., Kuellenberg de Gaudry, D., Sommer, H., & Meerpohl, J. J. (2017). Non?nutritive sweeteners for diabetes mellitus. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2017(11), CD012885. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012885
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