Published 13 Sep, 2022

In order to maintain health and wellbeing, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian Dietary Guidelines provide minimum recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables that the population should consume to minimise the risk of diet-related chronic diseases.1 The 2015 Australian Burden of Disease Study indicated that dietary risks contributed 4.2% of the disease burden for cancer.2 The 2011 Australian Burden of Disease Study indicated that a diet low in fruit contributed 2.6% of the disease burden for cancer, and a diet low in vegetables contributed about 0.5% of this burden.3

    Charts

    There is evidence that fruit and vegetables, and other foods containing dietary fibre, provide a protective effect against some cancers, particularly colorectal (bowel) cancers.4 Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of colorectal cancer in the world, with this cancer estimated to be the 4th most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2020.5,6

    The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a minimum of two serves of fruit per day for males and females aged 18 years and over. For vegetables, the recommended minimum daily intake varies between 5 and 6 serves per day depending on age and sex (see ‘About the data’).1

    In 2020-21, 44.8% of adult Australians aged 18 years or over met the dietary guideline for daily fruit intake. The proportion of females meeting the guideline (48.3%) was higher than the proportion for males (41.2%), with these proportions generally observed to increase with increasing age. Females were more likely than males to meet the dietary guideline in most age groups under 85 years. 

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

    In 2018-19, 38.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over met the dietary guideline for fruit intake. The proportion of females meeting the guideline (42.6%) was higher than the proportion for males (33.7%).

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were less likely to meet the dietary guideline for fruit intake compared to the broader Australian community (39.2% compared to 51.1%).

    Remoteness and socioeconomic status (SES)

    In 2017-18, proportions of persons meeting the dietary guideline for fruit intake were highest for Major Cities (52.0%) and lowest in Remote areas (48.2%) of Australia, with higher proportions of females than males meeting the guideline in all areas.

    In 2017-18, proportions of persons meeting the dietary guideline for fruit intake were lowest in the most disadvantaged SES areas (SES 1, 48%), and highest in the least disadvantaged areas (55%). Higher proportions of females than males met the guideline across all SES areas,

    International comparison (15 years and over)

    Comparable international data are not available for daily fruit intake. In 2017 the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries reported that Australian males and females aged 15 years and over had the highest proportions reporting daily fruit consumption among 35 nations of the OECD.7 However, caution is advised when interpreting these findings due to differences in survey methodologies.

    This measure shows average daily fruit consumption for adults aged 18 years or over, and the proportion of adults aged 18 years who met/did not meet the dietary guideline for daily fruit intake.

    Numerator:  Usual daily number of serves of fruit reported by adults aged 18 years or over.

    Denominator: Number of persons aged 18 years and over, including those reporting that they did not consume fruit.

    Recommended fruit intake

    The 2013 NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the following serves of fruit per day:

    Recommended serves per day 18 years 19-50 years 51-70 years 70 years and over
    Fruit        
    Males 2 2 2 2
    Females 2 2 2 2

    Methodology

    2020-2021 National Health Survey (NHS) Data

    The 2020-21 NHS data should be considered a break in time series from previous NHS collections and used for point-in-time national analysis only. The survey was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic which significantly changed the data collection. To maintain the safety of survey respondents and ABS Interviewers, it was collected via an online, self-complete form. Non-response is usually reduced through Interviewer follow up of households who have not responded. As this was not possible, there were lower response rates than previous NHS cycles, which impacted sample representativeness for some sub-populations. Comparisons to previous health data over time are not possible.

    In addition to the changes resulting from the pandemic and data collection via an online form, there were a number of other changes made to the 2020-21 NHS. This survey had a planned change to sample design and only nationally representative estimates are available – State and Territory estimates have not been produced. There have also been various changes to content, question modules, instrument design and output data items.

    Remoteness

    The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) 2016, was used to allocate participants to a remoteness area based on their area of usual residence.

    Socioeconomic status

    The 2016 Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) Index for Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage was used to allocate participants to a SEIFA quintile based on their usual residence.  

    Data sources

    ABS 2017-18 National Health Survey

    ABS 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey

    ABS 2020-21 National Health Survey

     

     

    Data

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2022. 4364.0.55.001– National Health Survey: Health Conditions Prevalence, 2020-21. Accessed June 2022;  https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/health-conditions-prevalence/2020-21

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2018. 4364.00.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. Accessed November 2021; https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

    Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2019. 4715.0 – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2018-19. Accessed November 2021; https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4715.0

    Policy

    Australian Government Department of Health. Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Accessed March 2020; http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-food-index.htm

    References

    1. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

    2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 19. Cat. No. BOD 22. Canberra: AIHW.

    3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 3. BOD 4. Canberra: AIHW.

    4. Cancer Australia, 2015. Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer. Surry Hills: Cancer Australia.

    5. Bowel Cancer statistics. Cancer Australia; 2019. Accessed July 2020; https://bowel-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics

    6. Australian Government DoHA (Department of Health and Ageing) 2005. The Australian Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot Program and beyond: final evaluation report. Screening monograph no. 6/2005. Canberra: DoHA

    7. OECD (2019), "Diet and physical activity among adults", in Health at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/ec7f6a40-en.

    Summary

    Almost half of all adults meet the dietary guideline for fruit intake

    In 2020-21, just under 1 in 2 adult Australians (44.8%) met the dietary guideline for daily fruit intake.

    Higher proportions of females than males are meeting the guideline for fruit intake

    In 2020-21, 48.3% of females met the dietary guideline for daily fruit intake compared to 41.2% of males.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely than the broader Australian community to meet the dietary guideline for fruit intake

    In 2018-19, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were less likely than the broader Australian community to meet the dietary guideline for daily fruit intake (39.2% compared to 51.1%).