Time for an oil change?

The heart of eating well is moderation, of course. Physicians would go further and recommend a "heart healthy" diet. This might be the point when the flesh weakens and the spirit becomes less willing. As is their nature, sinful foods are the ones that are oh so delectable but, alas, do no good when taken in excess. This is a key reason why champions of healthy eating habits have their work cut out for them.

No one knows this better than Health Promotion Board (HPB) advocates who have been stoutly offering pointers on how to "survive the hawker paradise". Comfort food like chicken rice, nasi lemak and mee soto are among the foods that rank high in cholesterol, salt and fat, including that arch rogue, saturated fat. And if that wasn't bad enough, the palm oil commonly used by hawkers, as it is the cheapest, has a high proportion of saturated fat which raises the risk of heart disease, says HPB.

Boldly going where few health authorities have ventured, it plans to spend millions of tax dollars a year to subsidise oil merchants so the price of a canola-palm oil substitute matches that of palm oil. The intent is to overcome any resistance from food sellers for whom cost is paramount. While the vigour of the effort is to be hailed, the intended outcomes call for closer scrutiny.

The oil substitute might be eschewed for perceived taste reasons. More importantly, deep-fried foods are generally unwholesome and the health benefits of the substitute might not be substantial - 38 per cent saturation compared to palm oil's 50 per cent. Resources would be better spent in public education that emphasises a holistic approach to health. Ingredients, salt and sugar use, and preparation methods all contribute to a balanced diet. Physical activity, weight management and lifestyle pursuits are also central to staying healthy. Tuning up sedentary routines within homes can achieve more than an oil change within woks.