Monk Fruit and Erythritol – New Research and Cautions
Update 2/28/2023 – I’ve changed the title in light of new research – Zero-calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke, study finds. I wonder if Dr. Greger will update his research results based on this.
Update 2/16/2023 – I feel the erythritol and/or monk fruit syrup are making me feel queasy as the day goes by, so I poured the rest of the bottle down the sink and am giving it up. I also was starting to have too much of it, being a sweet addict. I’m just staying away from it and keeping things simple.
I never realized, until the last few years, how much of a “sweet foods” addict I am. This includes otherwise healthy, whole foods, such as whole fruits. Give me a bunch of bananas and they are gone the same day. If I buy 2 apples, I’ll eat them. If I buy 4 apples I’ll eat them. If I buy 6 apples, same thing, they are gone. And the calories in those fruits can really add up! Yesterday I sort of let myself splurge on fruits because I was in a “fruit mood.” I had two 280 g servings of pineapple in the morning, and two Fuji apples in the afternoon. That was 450 calories eaten up, with basically no satiety. And yes, calories do count (whether you count them or not). So even though fruits are to the left of the calorie density red line, they can still affect your weight. Dr. McDougall of “The Starch Solution” fame recommends limiting fruits to 0-3 a day, depending on which of his plans you follow and how concerned you are about weight loss or avoiding weight gain.
A few years ago I discovered I like maple syrup. For some reason, I thought I didn’t care for it when growing up. But I had an unopened container from a trip to Boston and I tried it. Delicious! But it’s also about 50 calories per tablespoon. I started drizzling just a teaspoon on this and that. But I felt like I wanted more and more, so kept on finding excuses to add it to things. I even added maple syrup to plain, sliced apples.
I know there are a lot of zero calorie sweeteners out there, but most are artificial, unhealthy, and more immediately noticeable they cause digestive problems (which I won’t detail). I’m particularly sensitive to sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, and even xylitol causes some problems.
Recently I found monk fruit (lakanto) syrup (with erythritol included) at my local supermarket. Dr. Greger seems to be ok with erythritol, where he says, “The natural sweetener erythritol does not appear to carry the adverse effects associated with other non- and low-caloric natural and artificial sweeteners, and may actually have antioxidant potential.” See “Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant” for more details. As for monk fruit his message is more mixed, but it is a natural sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years in China.
I did some additional reading on monk fruit sweeteners, and they seem to be safe and natural, so I gave it a try. I think I may have found my safe, zero calorie, sweetener of choice!
Note – there are zillions of references on monk fruit, erythritol, and all sorts of sweeteners. Dr. Greger’s site at nutritionfacts.org is one good reference. I have not done that much study on this topic and still have a lot to learn.
So far I’ve used this monk fruit / erythritol syrup a a couple of ways. I might make some hot tea since it’s winter, and add 1 tablespoon to it. It does make the tea nice. Also, I might slice up carrots and drizzle a tablespoon of the syrup on top and sprinkle on some cinnamon or nutritional yeast and have it as a snack. It makes it delicious.
Now, if you are a sweet addict like I appear to be there is one thing to be careful of. The mere fact that it tastes so good compels you to eat more! If sweet things are a trigger, this is a trigger. So while eating three carrots is probably healthier, and less calories, than 3 apples still, you might end up feeling like snacking more to get the sweet, syrupy flavor.
Still, if you’re snacking anyway, there are worse things you can have I think.
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