Modifiable Risk Factors – Inadequate Vegetable and Fruit Consumption
In 2017, more than three-quarters (78%) of Ontario adults reported eating less than 5 servings of vegetables or fruits per day. During this same time period, rates of inadequate consumption were significantly higher in men than women, lower-income households than higher income households and those with high-school or lower education compared with post-secondary graduates. The rates did not differ by residence (urban/rural) or immigration status.
Why is this important to Ontarians?
- Modifiable risk factors are behaviours and exposures that can lower or raise a person’s risk of cancer and that can be changed. Eating at least 5 servings of vegetables (excluding potatoes) and fruit a day has been shown to be a good marker of overall diet quality. A comprehensive World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research review found that consumption of plant foods (like non-starchy vegetables and fruit), which contain fibre and other nutrients, can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Evidence suggests that eating foods containing dietary fibre probably decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Reporting on risk factor prevalence in Ontario is important to effectively monitor trends over time, support the development of health promotion and disease prevention strategies, and evaluate outcomes of provincial interventions.
See Modifiable Risk Factors Methodology for technical information.
- Between 2015 and 2017, the proportion of Ontario adults ages 18 and older who ate vegetables and fruit fewer than 5 times a day increased from 75.3% in 2015 to 78.1% in 2017. Men were significantly more likely to eat vegetables and fruit fewer than 5 times a day.
- From 2015 to 2017, the rate of inadequate vegetable and fruit consumption in Ontario adults ages 25 and older were:
- higher in the lowest income quintile (81.6% in Q1) than in the highest income quintile (73.5% in Q5)
- higher among people with less than secondary and secondary education (86.3% and 80.6% respectively) than among post-secondary graduates (74.0%)
- Rates did not differ significantly by residence (urban/rural) or immigration status.
- This indicator needs improvement because the rates of inadequate vegetable and fruit consumption have been increasing and show differences by socio-demographic factors. Exposure to some risk factors is higher in particular social, economic or geographic populations. Populations facing health inequities experience higher incidence and mortality rates for certain cancers.
- Improving food environments through economic and physical access to healthy food, and improving food skills education are key to increasing consumption of healthy foods including vegetables and fruits.
- Cancer Care Ontario co-led the development of the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy, a plan for healthy food and food systems in Ontario using a coordinated cross-government and cross-sectoral approach to developing evidence-based food policy. Published in 2017, the strategy was developed by 26 organizations with roles in food systems and health. Although the strategy has not been endorsed by the provincial government, organizations are working to collectively advance the goals of the strategy.
- Evidence shows that healthy public policy and community-wide programs work better to reduce the prevalence of modifiable risk factors at a population-level than those that focus on changing individuals’ behaviours.
- The Prevention System Quality Index is a series of reports that monitor population-level policies and programs that can reduce cancer risk factors and exposures in the Ontario population. The reports include evidence-based recommendations to strengthen cancer prevention in Ontario.