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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", "longevity 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 consumed year-round.

Additionally, you can buy sweeteners made from Luo Han Guo. That’s because it contains natural non-sugar sweet tasting compounds 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

Due to the plethora of health benefits, Luo Han Guo has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for decades to treat whooping cough, constipation, acute bronchitis, acute tonsillitis, sore throats and acute gastritis. Monk fruit has also been used as a sweetener in TCM for centuries. This unique fruit contains compounds called mogrosides, which when dried are 150-200 times sweeter than sugar, but produce zero rise in blood sugar and contain no calories or carbohydrates. It's an ideal sweetener for diabetics or any individuals managing their weight or sugar intake for general health reasons.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it 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 monk fruit sweetener made from Luo Han Guo contains no 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 has antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. The mashed root of the plant has been used topically on skin conditions like psoriasis and boils. And as mentioned above, due to its minimal impact on blood sugar, luo han guo is an ideal sweetener for diabetics and 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, beverages and most recently keto-friendly snack foods, cakes and cookies are containing monk fruit sweeteners. More and more consumers are striving to cut their sugar intake, but prefer natural sweeteners over artificial, zero calorie options, which often have side effects and health concerns linked to excessive use.

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.

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 15 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. In 2005, Lisa co-founded Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan. Inspired by the growing prevalence of autoimmune conditions, particularly those linked to sugar, wheat and gluten, Ms Jubilee started an entrepreneurial food business in late 2016 to provide a gluten-free, grain-free, low in sugar cookie that fits into virtually any diet. Her mission to educate the public on the power of food as either health promoting or depleting continues with her Every Day, Anytime Cookie; Keto-Snaps.com.