With so many sweeteners on the market, it can be confusing to know which kind is the best option. Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to stevia vs monk fruit. This article will lay out the pros and cons of both sweetener options and help you decide which one is better for satisfying your sweet tooth without all the sugar. Let’s dig in!
What is stevia?
Stevia is a herb from which stevia sweetener is extracted. It is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and is well-known as a more natural, sugar free sweetener.
When you purchase stevia sweetener, you are actually buying a refined version of stevia. Pure stevia is actually considered unsafe for consumption as it can negatively impact blood sugar regulation along with cardiovascular, kidney, and reproductive health.
The refined version of stevia you see on the shelves of your grocery store is actually made from something called Rebaudioside A (aka Reb A) extract, which is considered safe for consumption and doesn’t cause the aforementioned negative health impacts.
Benefits of using stevia
Blood sugar and weight control
Stevia contains no sugar, which means it will not impact your blood sugar levels. Further, stevia has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels, making it a safe option for people who have diabetes.
In addition, since stevia has zero calories, substituting stevia for sugar can help you reduce your overall calories for the day. This can be especially useful for people who are trying to lose weight and also have a sweet tooth.
Stevia extract has been shown to be useful in weight loss efforts by providing the same level of satiety (feeling of fullness) as sugar after meals, despite having significantly fewer calories.
Another benefit of stevia is that it has been shown to help reduce both total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. This effect is beneficial for your cardiovascular health, something that people with diabetes should consider due to their increased risk of heart disease.
Cancer fighting properties
Stevia has also exhibited some anti-cancer effects. A specific compound within stevia has been shown to be toxic to certain cancer cell lines, killing the cells along with preventing further cancer cell growth.
More research needs to be conducted in order to form more conclusive evidence of this potential benefit of stevia.
Disadvantages of using stevia
Many stevia products are actually sweetener blends, meaning they are not 100% stevia (or 100% Reb A). These products may contain other sweeteners, like dextrose (another name for glucose/sugar), which directly impacts blood sugar levels.
Other products contain a blend of Reb A and erythritol, which is a much better option if you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels. For stevia products that contain sugar alcohols, the risk of digestive distress, such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea, increases. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label for more information.
There is some evidence that stevia can impact our gut microbiome, potentially leading to both increases and reductions in the various types of bacteria that inhabit our digestive tract. More research needs to be done to see the full extent of how stevia impacts our gut microbiota and how those alterations impact our health.
Another potential downside of stevia is that many people don’t enjoy the taste. Although it is extremely sweet, stevia also has a bit of a herbaceous, bitter flavor, which many have compared to licorice. If you don’t like this flavor, then stevia may not be the right sweetener for you.
The possibility of an allergic reaction to stevia products is higher for people who are allergic to other plants in the same family, including daisies, ragweed, and sunflowers. People allergic to these plants should definitely avoid stevia.
How to use stevia
Stevia is mostly used to sweeten drinks such as tea and coffee. You can also sprinkle stevia on your oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt for an extra boost in sweetness. Pretty much anytime you would use sugar, stevia can also be used.
In general, 1 teaspoon of stevia is equivalent in sweetness to 1 cup of sugar. Some stevia brands are meant to be used in the same measures as sugar, cup for cup. These options usually contain other sweeteners, and may even contain sugar.
To use stevia in baking, double check the product’s label to see the suggested ratio of stevia to sugar. You may also need to alter the total bulk and moisture of the recipe in order to get a similar result as a sugar-based recipe.
Remember that stevia is significantly sweeter than sugar, so you may want to use far less stevia than you would sugar in certain recipes. You can find out your stevia “sweet spot” by trial and error.
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit is a small, green melon that has been consumed for centuries. Buddhist monks were one of the first to utilize monk fruit, which explains the sweet fruit’s name.
With 150-200 times the sweetness of sugar, monk fruit extract is a natural sweetener that contains zero calories. The natural sweetness comes from an antioxidant compound called mogrosides, which has been shown to yield some health benefits.
This sweetener is considered safe to consume, even for children and pregnant women, and is not known to cause digestive troubles, unlike other sugar alternatives. On top of that, monk fruit is sugar free and does not raise blood sugar levels, so it is suitable for people with diabetes.
Benefits of using monk fruit
Can aid in weight loss
Since monk fruit is not absorbed in our digestive system, it is considered to have zero calories. This makes monk fruit a fantastic sweetener option for those who are trying to lose weight.
Just the small change of opting for monk fruit in place of sugar in your morning coffee and throughout your entire day can lead to a significant reduction in calories, which is useful when you are watching your waistline.
Suitable for diabetes
Monk fruit extract does not contain sugar and does not raise blood glucose levels. Additionally, monk fruit has actually been shown to help lower blood sugar and stimulate insulin secretion, giving it an anti-diabetic effect. This means that it is a great option for people who are watching their blood sugar or have diabetes.
Monk fruit has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to soothe sore throats and troubled tummies, and has been touted for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Disadvantages of using monk fruit
One thing to keep in mind is that just because a food or beverage product is made with monk fruit does not mean that there aren’t also added sugars. In addition, monk fruit may be used in sweetener blends that contain sugar or other sugar alternatives that can cause digestive issues.
Always be sure to read the Nutrition Facts panel to check for sugar content, even if the front label states that it is made with monk fruit.
Another potential disadvantage is that monk fruit is still an up-and-coming sweetener, so it may be more difficult to find in your local grocery store. Luckily, it can be easily found online on sites like Amazon. In addition, some health food stores may carry monk fruit sweetener.
Not only can monk fruit be difficult to find, it is also quite expensive compared to sugar and other sweeteners. Part of the issue is that monk fruit sweetener is expensive to produce and has to be imported since it is originally grown in Asia.
Lastly, it is possible to be allergic to monk fruit, albeit rare. If you are allergic to foods that fall into the same family as monk fruit, such as melons, cucumber, pumpkin, or squash, you are more likely to react to monk fruit than other people.
Watch out for signs of allergic reactions including hives, difficulty breathing, dizziness, swollen tongue, stomach pain, and vomiting. However, the vast majority of people are not likely to have a reaction when consuming monk fruit sweetener.
How to use monk fruit
Monk fruit sweetener can be used to sweeten anything you’d like! Think of the things that you add sugar or other sweeteners to, and monk fruit should be a good fit.
Some ideas for using monk fruit sweetener include:
- Coffee, tea, and other beverages
- Salad dressings
But what about using monk fruit sweetener in baking? Many sweeteners don’t hold up during baking, and it isn’t always as simple as substituting in a sweetener in equal parts to sugar.
The good news is that monk fruit is heat-stable and is well-suited for use in baked treats. Since monk fruit is so much sweeter than sugar, you may need to experiment a bit to ensure you get your preferred level of sweetness when baking.
Just like the level of sweetness will likely change, using this sweetener in baked goods may also result in slightly different textures or appearance. One way to avoid this potential issue is to find recipes that have already been tested or developed using monk fruit.
You can also find monk fruit sweetener blends that reduce the overall sweetness, making it more suitable for cup-for-cup substitutions in your favorite recipes. However, be sure to double check the Nutrition Facts label to ensure the blend does not contain any added sugar.
The bottom line: which sweetener is better?
Both monk fruit and stevia are sugar free, calorie free sweeteners that can be used in the place of sugar to sweeten foods and beverages without impacting blood sugar levels.
With similar health benefits, both sweeteners are great options for people trying to reduce their overall sugar consumption.
In the end, what it boils down to is what you prefer. Both stevia and monk fruit can have aftertastes that may not be enjoyable for you.
Monk fruit is also more expensive and more difficult to find than stevia is, which may make stevia your choice if you are on a budget or need to obtain it quickly for a recipe.
Regardless of which option you choose, be sure to look at the label before purchasing to ensure you won’t be exposed to any sneaky added sugars which may elevate your blood sugar levels.