Hey, Muscle & Fitness: I’ll eat anything, but are there any foods I should definitely eat organic? —Charles W., Detroit, MI
To buy or not to buy, that is the question. There are countless decisions you need to make while spinning your wheels through the supermarket aisles, not the least of which is whether or not to opt for anything organic. And organic is everywhere these days, from protein bars to frozen pizza, so it’s understandable to fret about which items are both essential and certified organic for your optimal health and fitness gains. One thing is for certain: while organic foods are undeniably less processed, they come with a heftier price tag. Here’s where you should shell out more of your hard-earned cash...and where it doesn’t matter so much.
▲ SPLURGE: ORGANIC APPLES
In terms of sheer number of potentially harmful chemical residues, the Environmental Working Group found that apples, along with celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, hot peppers, grapes, peaches, nectarines, spinach, potatoes, strawberries, and bell peppers, were the worst offenders in the produce aisle. Also consider opting for organic tomatoes. A Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study reported that organic tomatoes have higher levels of disease-fighting and muscle-mending polyphenol antioxidants than their conventional brethren. The theory is that without chemical inputs the tomatoes are forced to activate their own antioxidant defense mechanisms.
▲ SAVE: CONVENTIONAL ASPARAGUS
On the flip side, the Environmental Working Group discovered that conventionally grown asparagus, avocado, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, cabbage, kiwi, mango, mushrooms, onions, papaya, pineapple, and sweet potatoes were the cleanest of the produce heap.
▲ SPLURGE: ORGANIC BEEF
Many serious lifters rely on beef for a big chunk of their protein needs, but this might be the most important meat to buy organic. When you pony up for beef that’s been certified organic by the USDA, you’re sidestepping the hormones, antibiotics, and massive amounts of pesticide-laden corn and soy given to feedlot cattle that could end up in your steak or hamburger.
▲ SAVE: CONVENTIONAL COOKIES
A 2013 Cornell University study found that consumers perceived junk foods like cookies to be “healthier” when told they were organic, even if they contained the same number of calories and fat as those presented as non-organic. The researchers surmise that this health halo effect of organic foods could cause people to feel less guilty and, in turn, overeat nutritionally poor items. Organic or not, junk foods are best left on store shelves.
3 large scrambled eggs
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup organic strawberries
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup chopped conventional pineapple
8 oz wild Alaskan salmon
1⁄2 lb steamed conventional asparagus
1 cup quinoa
1 rice cake
1 tbsp peanut butter
POST WORKOUT SNACK
1 cup organic low-fat milk
2 scoops whey protein powder
1 cup frozen conventional mango cubes
HAMBURGERS MADE WITH:
2 whole-grain buns
2 4-oz organic lean beef patties
1 cup organic baby spinach
1⁄2 sliced conventional avocado