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In this series, we explore the good and bad sugars and sweeteners, including popular natural ones, uncover the unexpected outcomes of cutting out sugar, and discover the ultimate way to do so.Following in stevia's footsteps, monk fruit has gained widespread attention as a natural sweetener. One significant benefit of this sweetener is that it can manage blood sugar and lipid levels. It also might have antiviral effects against COVID-19 and even anti-cancer properties.
"Monk fruit does actually contain natural sugars. Those are mainly fructose and glucose. However, unlike most fruit, the natural sugars from monk fruit aren't really responsible for the sweetness. Instead, the intense sweetness comes from a group of compounds called mogrosides," Taylor Wallace, an adjunct associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and CEO at the Think Healthy Group LLC, said in an interview with The Epoch Times.
"The extracted mogrosides from monk fruit, obtained through processing, don't necessarily contain fructose or glucose. So these are very similar compounds to what you would see in other high-intensity sweeteners," Mr. Wallace said.
"Mogroside, as a natural sweetener derived from plants, is a series of molecules, and the taste of these molecules is different," Nate Yates, vice president of the Global Sugar Reduction Platform at Ingredion Inc., told The Epoch Times.
Mogroside V is the most abundant of the compounds, and ripe monk fruit is exceptionally sweet because of its high content of mogroside V, according to the Molecules review.
Monk Fruit Sugar's Anti-Diabetic EffectsLike stevia, monk fruit sugar is a zero-calorie sweetener. It is often described as having a taste similar to that of cane sugar, which is a high-calorie sweetener.
The results showed that those who consumed beverages containing sucrose experienced an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels within an hour before a meal, and those who consumed beverages containing one of the other sweeteners, including monk fruit, did not.
After subsequent monitoring, the researchers concluded that natural sweeteners, including monk fruit sweetener, had the most negligible effect on post-meal blood sugar levels and insulin secretion compared with sucrose.
Mogrosides have been shown to regulate lymphocyte antigens in Type 1 diabetic mice and exhibit therapeutic effects on symptoms. Monk fruit extract can also alleviate and repair damage to pancreatic beta cells and promote insulin secretion, according to the Frontiers in Pharmacology review.
Monk fruit beverages, made from monk fruit powder and water, have already been granted patent registrations in China. The review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggested that such drinks are suitable for treating diabetes.
Potential Benefits of Monk Fruit Against COVID-19The monk fruit has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat cough, sore throat, bronchitis, and asthma. According to the Frontiers in Pharmacology review, records of its effectiveness in relieving phlegm, alleviating pain, clearing heat, and moisturizing the lungs—to use some terms from TCM—can be traced back 2,000 years.
"In particular, during the summer, it is recommended to consume monk fruit when experiencing symptoms such as sore throat, throat discomfort, or cough," Jonathan Liu, a professor of Chinese medicine at Georgian College and the director of Liu’s Wisdom Healing Centre in Canada, told The Epoch Times.
Anti-Cancer, Anti-Inflammatory, and Antioxidant Properties
Mogrosides Exhibit Anti-Cancer PropertiesMogrosides exhibit comprehensive anti-cancer activities, as evidenced by various experiments. According to the review in Foods, they can inhibit the invasion and migration of lung cancer cells, induce cell apoptosis, and impede the proliferation of colorectal and laryngeal cancer cells. Moreover, mogrosides can disturb the growth cycle of pancreatic cancer cells and cause cell death. According to the Frontiers in Pharmacology review, monk fruit extract has also been found to have inhibitory effects on liver cancer.
Monk Fruit Benefits the Brain and Nervous SystemMogrosides can alleviate neuroinflammation in brain cells and help manage Alzheimer's disease, according to the Molecules review. They can also reduce memory impairments and prevent hippocampus apoptosis. In addition, animal studies mentioned in the Foods review have shown that mogrosides can effectively improve schizophrenic behaviors in mice and modulate partial permanent impairment of the nervous system.
Monk Fruit Acts as an AntioxidantThe Molecules review states that mogrosides are antioxidant agents, enabling them to scavenge reactive oxygen species and protect cells. They can also inhibit DNA oxidative damage, thereby slowing the aging process. Additionally, mogrosides demonstrate significant protective effects against exercise-induced tissue damage, including cardiac injury. The Foods review indicated they could also improve nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by preventing liver fat accumulation and inhibiting lipid peroxidation.
Who Should Avoid Consuming Monk Fruit Sugar?"Monk fruit sweetener seems to be fairly safe, though it undergoes an artificial extraction process," Mr. Wallace said.
According to TCM, monk fruit is considered to have a slightly cold nature and is associated with minimal side effects. However, Mr. Liu advised that people with cold constitutions, such as those who frequently experience loose stools, have a large, pale tongue, or exhibit prominent tooth marks on the edges of the tongue, may want to avoid monk fruit consumption.
Selecting Monk Fruit Sweeteners: Considerations and ChallengesMonk fruit offers numerous health benefits, but its cultivation can be challenging. It has low germination rates and requires specific environmental conditions for successful growth.
Fresh monk fruit is also tough to store and rarely seen in the market. However, dried monk fruit can be found in some Asian grocery stores, Chinese herbal medicine stores, and online.
Homemade Monk Fruit Syrup and Monk Fruit TeaYou can also try making homemade monk fruit syrup using dried monk fruit.
- Remove the peel of the monk fruit and extract the flesh and seeds. Soak the monk fruit flesh and seeds in 194 F (90 C) water for 30 minutes at a ratio of 1 gram of dried fruit to 15 milliliters of water, as described in the Foods review. Then, strain the liquid and store it for later use.
- Afterward, you can pour in fresh hot water and continue soaking the flesh and seeds, but remember to extend the soaking time appropriately with each subsequent infusion.
- By boiling the infused monk fruit water, you can reduce it to obtain monk fruit syrup.
Next: Here comes the most controversial and popular sugar.
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