It’s finally fall, and we’re ready to celebrate the new season with football, festivals and our favorite Southern meals. Safely gathering with family and friends to enjoy some much-deserved comfort food is good for the soul. But is it good for our hearts? Jon Bierman, on-site gardener for the Arkansas Heart Hospital (AHH), is sharing his top produce picks to help us welcome the soon-to-come cool air and keep our health on track.

Apples: Nothing says fall quite like a crisp red apple. This well-loved fruit is loaded with fiber and antioxidants, which can help lower the risk of heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Easy to store and transport, apples are an affordable side or addition to nearly any meal. 

Leafy greens: The taste, versatility and availability of leafy greens, such as mustard greens or kale, can’t be beat. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, but are low in calories, making them perfect ingredients for omelets, soups and pasta dishes. Another bonus: They offer countless health benefits, including reduced obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Root vegetables: Salad may make us think of summer, but fall is peak season for nutritious and hearty toppings like carrots, beets and radishes. These root vegetables are packed with fiber, carotenoids and antioxidants that are shown to improve circulation and reduce blood pressure. When paired with arugula or mustard greens, they can also help enhance blood flow and strengthen immune systems.

Summer holdovers: Say goodbye (and good riddance) to the heat with the remaining pepper, eggplant and tomato crops. Generally, Arkansas’ first frost doesn’t arrive until mid-November, so these vegetables can be enjoyed well into fall. Incorporate them into vegan-friendly dishes like ratatouille or coconut curry that are low in cholesterol and high in dietary fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins B6, A, C, K and manganese.

Sweater weather isn’t here quite yet. But that doesn’t mean we can’t welcome fall with our favorite seasonal dishes featuring produce from our own gardens, farmers markets or local grocery stores. For additional heart-healthy inspiration, check out recipes from AHH’s From the Heart