Everyone has heard the saying that more is better. That statement certainly is true when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption.

February is the American Heart Month. The Center for Disease Control specifies heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Eating more fruits and vegetables can help turn around that statistic, said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

Fruits and vegetables have long been recognized as a good source of vitamins and minerals, and they are also typically low in fat and a great source of fiber and phytochemicals. More recent research is showing the link between fruit and vegetable consumption and the reduced risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, stroke, hypertension, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The USDA MyPyramid recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day for a typical 2,000-calorie diet. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100 percent fruit juice, or half a cup of dried fruit is considered as 1 cup from the fruit group. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens is considered as 1 cup from the vegetable group.

How to eat all those fruit and vegetables

“You might think there is no way you can consume 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day, but it really is quite doable,” Hermann said. “Add raisins or other dried fruit to a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Another great way to start the day is with 100 percent fruit juice. A bowl of leafy greens, make a healthy salad for lunch. Add in some tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables to provide even more from the vegetable group.”

If your lunch calls for a sandwich, top it off with extra veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sprouts or sliced avocado.

One small apple is considered 1 cup of fruit and it also makes a great morning or afternoon snack. Add a vegetable to the menu for the evening meal and top off the night with a bowl of sliced strawberries and blueberries for dessert.

“You can add fruits and vegetables to just about everything you eat. Instead of pepperoni or sausage, try topping your pizza with mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, zucchini slices or artichoke hearts,” Hermann said. “You don’t have to give up your favorite foods, just modify them a bit to help achieve your goal of eating more fruits and vegetables.”