Fruit and vegetable consumption is strongly linked to the prevention of chronic disease and to better health (NHMRC 2003a, NHMRC 2003b). Many of the principal causes of ill-health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diseases that can be affected by poor nutrition, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and kidney disease (AHMAC 2006). In 2003, insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption contributed to 3% of the total burden of disease and 6% of deaths for Indigenous Australians (Vos et al 2007).
In 2004-05, the majority of Indigenous people aged 12 years and over reported eating vegetables (95%) and/or fruit (86%) on a daily basis. Fruit and vegetables may be less accessible to Indigenous people living in remote areas, where one in five (20%) reported no usual daily fruit intake compared with one in eight (12%) in non-remote areas. The disparity was even greater for vegetable consumption, where 15% of people in remote areas reported no usual daily intake compared with only 2% in non-remote areas.
The NHMRC guidelines recommend a minimum of five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit per day (see the Glossary for more information). Of people in non-remote areas, 42% were eating the recommended daily intake of fruit and 10% the recommended daily intake of vegetables. Indigenous people in remote areas were not asked to specify how many serves of fruit and vegetables they usually eat on a daily basis.
After adjusting for age differences between the two populations, there was little difference in the rates of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who did not meet the recommended daily intake of vegetables (89% compared with 86%), however Indigenous people were more likely than non-Indigenous people to have not met the recommended daily intake of fruit (55% compared with 46%). In both populations, women were more likely than men to meet the daily fruit and vegetable intake requirement.