Australians don't eat enough vegetables, report finds

The nation's health report card is in and Australians are living longer than ever before, but we're also among the worst in the world for obesity.

Nearly all Australians aren't eating enough vegetables, according to the latest snapshot of the country's health. 

The Australia's Health 2018 report found more than 99 per cent of children and 96 per cent of adults don’t eat the recommended intake of five serves of vegetables a day. 

Medical Journalist Michael Mosley said poor eating habits start at an early age. 

"A lot of people don't get introduced to them as children and, therefore, never like them. Also we are stuffing our faces with lots of (carbohydrate) junk, so never get hungry," Mr Mosley said. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt launched the report, compiled by the Australian Institute  in Canberra on Wednesday.  

"Our aspiration is to be the number one health system in the world, and I think we are very close, and we can achieve it," Mr Hunt said. 

Rising obesity rates was earmarked as a major health concern in the report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which acts as a guide for policy makers. 

According to the report, two-thirds of adults and more than a quarter of Australian children are overweight.

Gastroenterologist for The BMI Clinic Adrian Sartoretto said the consequences of rising obesity extend beyond the waistline. 

"This means that our risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, reflux, and many cancers including esophageal, bowel, breast and liver cancers have all increased dramatically," Dr Satoretto said. 

Poor nutrition is a major contributing factor. 

Key findings

The report also found heart disease is the biggest killer for men, while dementia and Alzheimer’s are the leading causes of death for women. 

One man per month and one woman a week is killed at the hands of a current or former partner.

And nearly half of all Australians over 16 will experience a mental illness.

But report author Dinesh Indraharan said there is plenty of good news.

"We're living longer and we've seen seen reductions in some areas such as smoking and alcohol intake, especially among young people," Mr Indraharan said.

Australia's Health 2018 report author Dinesh Indraharan.
Source: SBS

Eating more vegetables

On the food front, Bodhi vegan restaurant owner Heaven Leigh said there are some simple ways to get more veggies on the plate."

"Incorporate lots of different colours and variety to your diet on a regular basis, and do start looking at the vegetable as being the main portion of your meal as opposed to a side portion," Ms Leigh said. 

Medical Journalist Michael Mosley agreed.

"You also have to find ways of cooking them and presenting them that make them look and smell attractive, and too many of us are just boiling them to death."

Bodhi Vegan restaurant, Sydney.
Source: SBS

A snapshot of Australia's health in 2018

- Two-thirds of adult Australians are overweight

- More than one-quarter of children are overweight or obese

- More than 99 per cent of children and 96 per cent of adults do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables

- Australians do not exercise enough, with 92 per cent of teenagers not doing the recommended amount for their age

- On an average day there are 850 births, 440 deaths, 380 cancer diagnoses and 170 heart attacks

- On an average day there are 406,000 GP visits and 777,000 prescriptions under the PBS

- Of OECD countries, Australia has the fifth highest life expectancy at birth for males, and the eighth highest for females

- We're expected to live about 33 years longer than people born in 1890

- Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for males, followed by lung cancer, and dementia and Alzheimer's disease

- Dementia and Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of death for females, followed by coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease

- One woman per week and one man per month is killed at the hands of a current or previous partner

- Indigenous Australians are 2.1 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday and 2.7 times as likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress

(Source: Australia's Health 2018, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

Published 20 June 2018 at 7:37pm, updated 20 June 2018 at 10:35pm
By Michelle Rimmer