What’s Luo Han Guo (aka Monk Fruit)?
Luo Han Guo may sound like a Star Wars character, but it’s actually a sweet, round dried fruit that is grown in several provinces in southern China.
Luo Han Guo, or monk fruit, has traditionally been made into a Chinese tea for treatment of cough and respiratory irritation.
Roughly the size of an orange, Luo Han Guo, also known as “Buddha fruit” and “monk fruit,” has a thin, hard shell that holds numerous seeds. The fruit grows on vines on cultivated mountainsides in China. The mountain environment offers welcome shade and mist that protect the fruit from excess sunlight.
How It Got Its Name
The reason you’ll hear Luo Han Guo referred to as Buddha fruit or monk fruit is that the first references to it are found in the records of the 13th-century monks who discovered the fruit and its many wonderful properties. The fresh fruit is in season in autumn; at that time of the year it turns from light to dark green. The drying process is done in front of fire, which gets rid of hairs on the shell during the drying process. In dried form, the fruit can be had year-round.
Additionally, you can buy sweeteners made from Luo Han Guo. That’s because it contains natural non-sugar sweetener made up of triterpenoid glycosides, which have sweetness levels ranging from hundreds of times to about one-half that of sugar. The fruit contains glucose and fructose as well.
How It Is Used
Luo Han Guo is used in traditional Chinese medicine in the form of tea as a treatment for cough. It can also be used to make soups and stews as well as congee, which is a type of rice porridge. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it as a food ingredient, as a sweetener, and as a flavor modifier. Dried, the fruit has a nutty smell and a flavor that has been described as caramel and toffee-like. The sweetener made from Luo Han Guo is very low in calories, and it remains stable at high temperatures, which means it can be used as a sugar substitute, even for cooking and baking.
Health Benefits of Luo Han Guo
Sweeteners made from Luo Han Guo can be part of a healthy, ketogenic lifestyle.
The humble “monk fruit” is high in vitamin C and protein, and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In additional to being used as a cough treatment, Luo Han Guo has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating constipation, tonsillitis, and gastritis. The mashed root of the plant has been used topically on skin conditions like psoriasis and boils. Consumed in moderate amounts, the fruit can be used for the following purposes as well:
- Weight loss
- Allergy relief
- Improved heart health
- Stronger immunity
Products Containing It You May Wish to Try
In the U.S., the most popular uses of monk fruit are in sweetening dairy products and beverages. Consumers want to cut their sugar intake, and many of them prefer natural sweetening options to laboratory-made low-calorie sweeteners.
While it can be purchased as a sugar substitute (typically made so it measures just like sugar for cooking or drink sweetening purposes), Luo Han Guo is also finding its way into healthy snack choices. Keto-snaps, which are baked-to-order cookies that are free from wheat, gluten, grain, sugar alcohol, preservatives, additives, and GMO ingredients, include monk fruit powder along with many other whole food ingredients.
If you are trying to keep your calorie load under control, want to reduce sugar and carbs, or simply want to take advantage of many wonderful nutritional properties from a single source, give Luo Han Guo a try. It’s ideal for a ketogenic, paleo, or otherwise low-carb healthy lifestyle. And if you have questions about meaningful nutrition that’s satisfying and enjoyable, please contact us at any time.