Stevia and Monk Fruit are popular natural sweeteners that are used as alternatives to everyday sugar found in drinks, foods, and even supplements.
If you have tried super greens before then you have probably noticed that they are sweetened with either stevia or monk fruit. Both monk fruit and stevia are natural sweeteners that are used to combat the overpowering grassy earthy taste that’s common with green powder supplements.
When I developed my greens powder I looked at both Stevia and Monk Fruit but eventually chose to use stevia leaf extract.
Sweeter than sugar and containing zero calories, these natural sweeteners are a popular alternative to sugar. What are the differences between Stevia and Monk Fruit though, and which one is the best natural sweetener?
What is Stevia?
Stevia is taken from the leaves of the stevia plant and is available in different forms and the FDA has not approved all forms to be used in the United States.
Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you really don’t need a lot to make a difference. Too much and it can be easily overpowering.
Some people are not keen on stevia as it can leave an aftertaste that can be less than desirable.
Personally, I don’t mind the taste.
There is some confusion as to the health benefits of stevia and this is because there are different “stevia” products on the market, which either use different parts of the plant, processes for extraction, that can compromise how good it is for you.
You will see a specific stevia extract called Red A used predominantly in the US as this has been FDA approved.
- 200-300 times sweeter than sugar
- Don’t affect blood glucose levels
- Zero calories
- Can have bitter after taste
- May cause side effects such as bloating, nausea, and gas
What is Monk Fruit?
Monk Fruit is a small melon-like fruit that is also called Luo Han Guo. It’s found in regions of Southeast Asia, including some parts of Thailand and China.
Although it became popular by monks in the 13th century who used the fruit in herbal medicine it’s mostly used as a natural sweetener these days.
This fruit is not considered particularly tasty on its own and goes bad quickly, which makes it not a popular fruit to export. Instead, it became popular with health-conscious consumers following lower carb, ketogenic, or diabetic meal plans who were looking for a natural sweetener with zero-calories.
Monk Fruit is less sweet than Stevia but is still 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, and contains zero calories.
Finding Monk Fruit in your local superstore is less common especially in its purest form and tends to be mixed with other sweeteners.
In contrast to Stevia, Monk Fruit has not been extensively studied, and so whilst considered safe more research is really needed.
Monk Fruit PROS
- 150-200 times sweeter than sugar
- Monk fruit doesn’t impact blood sugar levels
- Zero calories
Monk Fruit CONS
- More expensive as more difficult to grow and cultivate
- Less scientifically studied thank stevia
- Can have unpleasant overly “fruity” aftertaste
Is Stevia or Monk Fruit Better for you?
Both stevia and monk fruit sweeteners have benefits over regular sugar. They have a low glycaemic index and so considered safe for diabetics, however, the sweetness can still stimulate insulin production.
In a showdown between stevia and monk fruit though which natural sweetener has the edge?
One thing is for sure, Stevia is certainly more popular and there more widely available than Monk Fruit, and this is reflected in the type and number of products that use Stevia.
This is also demonstrated in the amount of research supporting the use of Stevia and the potential benefits it has.
There is a negative point with stevia though in that it can have a negative gastrointestinal impact for some people, including stomach discomfort, nausea, gas, bloating, and bowel issues.
Which is the best natural sweetener for you?
The best way to determine if either stevia or monk fruit is the best option for you is to give both of them a try.
Either sweetener can be a good choice unless you’re sensitive or allergic to stevia, in which case monk fruit would be the obvious choice.
Stevia and monk fruit can have a mild aftertaste depending on the concentration and so you may find one is preferable to the other.
I undertook a taste test of popular greens powders to determine which supplement was the best, most of these used either Stevia or Monk Fruit.
In terms of availability, as I have mentioned stevia is more widely used and so you’re more likely to see this in your local supermarket.
A word of caution
I hope it would go without saying that just because natural sweeteners have zero calories and make a great alternative to sugar, you shouldn’t go crazy consuming tonnes of the stuff.
As with anything, you can easily build up a tolerance to natural sweeteners that can lead to seeking out and even craving sweeter foods and drinks.
I personally don’t like to add any additional sweetener to tea or coffee, which is easy to do when at home. Living in Malaysia with the eating out culture this can be harder to follow, especially considering how sweet the drinks can be here.
The last word on natural sweeteners like Stevia and Monk Fruit, use common sense when consuming them and if you have existing health conditions or concerns, then speak to your medical first.
My Verdict: Stevia vs Monk Fruit
If you have a sweet tooth like me, then either of these two popular natural sweeteners can be a better alternative to regular sugar.
Both have zero calories and have been shown to provide health benefits, and so are excellent sugar replacements.
I found that stevia leaf extract is the most popular natural sweetener in the green superfood supplements that I have reviewed, with only Organifi green juice contains monk fruit.
For me, Stevia leaf extract wins over monk fruit. It’s easier to source and mixes better with ingredients when taking in a supplement.