Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Life is only artificially sweetened with more sugar

MY wife and I were speechless when asked by a neighbour how we felt about the sugar price hike. My reply, after I had recovered from the suprise, rendered her speechless as well. I said the 20 sen hike over the RM1.45 sen per kilo price did not matter as we hardly used sugar. The sweetest thing we had around the house would be raw honey, which we use occasionally for the children's sore throats.

In fact, I have switched my beverage to kosong (without milk and sugar) when having a drink because it has become a chore trying to make the waiters understand what I meant when I ordered my drinks kurang manis (less sweet).

I did not want to attract looks of disdain by ordering air kosong (plain water) or ais kosong (plain iced water), so I settled for halia kosong (plain ginger juice) or limau kosong (plain lime juice) instead.

A few weeks ago, I even decided to altogether avoid the café near the office after it raised the price of limau kosong to RM1.20, which I thought was unreasonable.

How much would two limes squeezed into hot water cost, anyway? Limes go as cheap as RM1 per longgok (a pile) of no less than 30 fruits at the pasar tani near my home. While the citrus drink was healthy, I figured the price was not. Now I take a shorter route to the canteen which charges only 80 sen.

The shorter walk may not be as good for the health as the longer walk to the café, but at least I save 40 sen for every glass of limau kosong.

My wife wondered if there would be another round of price increase. The neighbourhood kuih seller had already hinted that it was harder for her to make ends meet. I stopped her short of saying she had to raise prices by reminding her of the price hikes when petrol prices went up.

Everyone who raised prices had justification for their actions but when the price of petrol dropped, how many had the decency to reduce theirs? Now that the price of sugar had gone up, some are ready to jump at the chance again.

Considering the sugar price hike to be at 13 per cent, reducing a similar percentage of sugar from food and drink would do little harm, I think. How many people can taste the difference, anyway?

Food vendors would actually be doing their customers a favour to make their stuff less sweet, considering the price their customers would have to pay in medical bills in later years.

I read in a report that Malaysians were downing an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar daily instead of the recommended seven. That's twice of the world's average of 11. This is certainly not healthy although it could be sweet news to the pharmaceuticals business. A term had been coined for those with slightly higher blood sugar level. "Prediabetes" means that if you do not cut your sugar intake, you will get diabetes in five years.

A healthier alternative would be to go sugar-free to satisfy your sweet tooth but that would not necessarily be good either. Sugar alternatives are not cheap judging from the prices of sugar-free stuff in the market these days.

So, the sweetest thing you can do for yourself is to perhaps go sugarless. After all, what could be sweeter than the taste of good health?

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