The quest for the ultimate sweetener never ends. Is there, on this earth, a natural, healthy, zero calorie sweetener with no after taste, no side effects, and no long term health risks?
Wandering around the Food and Nutrition Expo here in San Diego, we came upon an interesting sign for Monk Fruit – All natural, calorie-free sweetness. Turns out this Chinese fruit, also called luo-han-guo, has been used as a sweetener in some rural areas of China for ages.
Now, BioVittoria, a New Zealand company, is trying to commercialize a powder extract derived from this product. According to the company, their process for turning fruit into a powder is much more natural than that of extracting Stevia from the stevia plant. And just like stevia, it is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. We got to taste a bit and indeed it is sweet.
The powdered sweetener is not commercially available at supermarkets yet, but it has found its way into some drinks and some Kashi products as well. According to the company, they received GRAS status from the FDA last year (Generally regarded as Safe), and now the food world has to discover them.
So far there have been no reports of negative side effects, but then again, monk fruit has not been studied as extensively as other sweeteners on the market. It will be interesting to see how this new sweetener will compete in the market in the coming years.