In order to maintain health and wellbeing, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian Dietary Guidelines include minimum recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables that the population should consume to minimise diet-related chronic disease risk.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 to 2.6% of the disease burden for cancer, and a diet low in vegetables contributed about 0.5% of this burden.3
Notes• For males aged 18-24, this figure (1.2%) has a high level of margin for error and should be used with caution.
• Data from ABS National Health Survey: 2020-2021
• Error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals.
• Data not age-standardised.
Notes• Data from ABS Table Builder - National Health Survey (not available for very remote areas).
• Remoteness was classified according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Remoteness Areas, 2016.
• Error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals.
• Data not age-standardised.
About this measure
Fruit and vegetables, and other foods containing dietary fibre, are known to have a protective effect against some cancers, particularly colorectal (bowel) cancer.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 daily intake of vegetables of between 5 and 6 serves per day depending on age and sex (see ‘About the data’).1
In 2020-21, only 8.7% of Australians aged 18 years and over met the dietary guideline for vegetable intake. The proportion of females meeting this guideline (12.8%) was more than double the proportion for males (4.4%). The proportion meeting the dietary guidelines was higher for females than males in most age groups under 75 years, with these proportions generally observed to increase with increasing age.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
In 2018-19, 4.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over met the dietary guideline for vegetable intake. The proportions were lower among males (1.7%) than among females (6.3%).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were less likely to meet the dietary guideline for vegetable intake compared to the broader Australian community (4.5% compared to 7.3%).
Remoteness and socioeconomic status (SES)
In 2017-18, proportions of persons meeting the dietary guideline for vegetable intake were highest in Inner and Outer regional areas (9.5% and 9.1% respectively) and lowest in Major Cities (6.9%) and remote areas (6.9%). Across all regions, the number of females meeting these guidelines was at least double that of males.
Higher proportions of females than males met the guideline across all SES areas, For both males and females, the proportions meeting this guideline increased with higher socioeconomic status areas.
International comparison (15 years and over)
Comparable international data are not available on level of daily vegetable intake. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries reported in 2017 that Australian males and females aged 15 years and over had the highest proportions reporting daily vegetable consumption among 35 nations of the OECD.7 However, caution is advised when interpreting these findings due to differences in survey methodologies.
There are limited data available on trends in daily vegetable intake over time. Age- standardised proportions of persons not meeting the guideline for vegetables between 2007-2008 and 2017-2018 remained between about 93% and 94%.
About the data
This measure shows the average vegetable 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 vegetable intake.
Numerator: Usual daily number of daily serves of vegetables 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 vegetables.
Recommended vegetable intake
The 2013 NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the following serves of vegetables per day:
|Recommended serves per day||18 years||19-50 years||51-70 years||70 years and over|
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.
The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) 2016, was used to allocate participants to a remoteness area based on their area of usual residence.
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.
ABS 2017-18 National Health Survey
ABS 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
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
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
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; 2020. Accessed September 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.