A NEW report says four out of five Australian adults are not eating enough fruit and vegetables in order to meet health standards set by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The Fruit, Vegetables and Diet Score Report was commissioned by Horticulture Innovation Australia and produced by the CSIRO in surveying the eating habits of Australian adults, over an 18-month period.
The analysis found one in two (51 per cent) adults aren’t eating the recommended intake of fruit, while two out of three adults (66pc) are not eating enough vegetables.
With 145,975 participants nationwide, the survey was the largest of its kind ever conducted in Australia, a statement from the CSIRO said.
The report’s executive summary said Australians have easy access to high-quality fruit and vegetables - but the majority of adults don’t meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines for their age and gender.
“Only 24pc of women and 15pc of men are meeting both the fruit and vegetable guidelines,” the report said.
“Men, younger adults, obese adults and unemployed adults have been identified in this report as the key groups who need extra help increasing their intake of fruit and vegetables, although most adults have room to improve.”
It also said fruit and vegetable intake increased with variety.
“Adults who eat several different types of fruit and vegetables have the highest levels of consumption,” it said.
“A consideration for future population health campaigns is to focus on increasing variety of fruit and vegetables - increased consumption will likely follow.
“A key finding of this report is that adults who always have at least three types of vegetables with their evening or main meal are most likely to meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines.”
Director of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet and report co-author Professor Manny Noakes said many Aussies believed them-selves to be healthy, “yet this report shows the majority of those surveyed are not getting all the beneficial nutrients from fruit and vegetables needed for a healthy, balanced diet”.
“One simple way to boost your intake is to eat three different types of vegetables with your main evening meal,” she said.
Horticulture Innovation Australia CEO John Lloyd supported the report’s finding in regards to importance of variety, to increase fruit and vegetable uptake.
“For a country with an abundance of high-quality, locally-grown fruit and vegetables available all year round, it’s disappointing so many Australians are missing out and not enjoying enough variety in their diets,” he said.
“Australian growers are adapting to the consumer’s need for convenience by bringing high-quality fresh produce from the farm to the table in ready-to-cook and eat packaging, making it easier for time-poor adults to add more nutritious fruit and vegetables into their diets.”
People across Australia, in all occupations and weight ranges, were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and October 2016.
CSIRO researchers analysed this data to develop a comprehensive picture of the country’s fruit and vegetable consumption.
Professor Noakes said increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables that people eat was one of the simplest ways Australians can improve their health and wellbeing and combat the growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers.
She said diets high in fruit and vegetables have been shown to improve psychological and physical markers of wellbeing.
"In particular, phytochemicals from fruit and vegetables reduce systemic inflammation which can lead to chronic disease,” she said.
The report said a greater proportion of adults living in rural areas meet the fruit consumption guideline compared to other areas (53pc vs 48-49pc).
About one third of adults in urban areas meet the guideline for vegetables (33pc) compared to about 37pc in other areas, it said.
“The percentage of adults who meet both the fruit and vegetable guidelines varies a little by degree of remoteness,” the report said.
“About 20pc of those living in major urban areas meet both guidelines compared to 24pc of those in rural areas.”
It also said eating fruit and vegetables is a daily habit for most of the sample - but drinking juice is not as common.
The average intake of fruit juice is 0.2 serves per day (approximately 25ml) and of vegetable juice is 0.1 serves (or 12ml) per day.
“Of adults that report to consume fruit juice (42.6pc of the sample), the average consumption is half of one serve (or 62ml),” it said.
“Of adults that report to consume vegetable juice (17.4pc of the sample,) the average reported consumption was 0.4 of a serve (or 50ml).”
The report also said about 18pc of Generation X and Generation Y respondents were consuming enough fruits and vegetables to meet both the fruit and vegetables guidelines, compared to 27pc of Baby Boomers and 33pc of the Silent Generation.
It also said older adults were more likely to meet the fruit and vegetable guidelines and 43pc of adults aged 50 years or younger meet the recommended intake for fruit, compared to 59pc of 51-70 year olds and 70pc of 71+ year olds.