When Levels decided to launch a new cooking series, tacos were an obvious choice for the first episode.
For starters, they lend themselves to customization. Just as you can swap out a mild salsa for a fiery one, so too can you ditch the less nutritious elements of tacos for metabolically-friendly replacements. And, according to our dataset, this kind of swap can make a real difference in post-meal glucose.
Among Levels members, people who logged tacos with flour tortillas saw their blood sugar go out of range for an average of 53 minutes. Members who logged tacos with lettuce shells or almond flour tortillas, by contrast, tended to stay in range.
“We see that many people are spiking after they eat tacos,” says Levels co-founder and chief medical officer Dr. Casey Means. “But that doesn’t have to be the case! There are so many ways to rethink your tacos to make them metabolically healthy and delicious.”
You can make any taco recipe healthier by replacing the traditional shell with a low-carb substitute (for a roundup of our favorites, check out The best tortilla alternatives for better blood sugar). But to maximize the nutritional value of your meal, you also need to add foods with functional ingredients and micronutrients that promote cell health.
“For this episode, I chose a taco recipe rich in omega-3 fats, fiber, and antioxidants—all of which are essential elements of a healthy meal,” says Casey. “I also like this recipe because it has both unprocessed meat and vegetarian fillings to suit your preference. Of course, if your preference is variety, then you should definitely make both!”
Speaking of that veggie filling, Casey adds: “Some people will skip the vegetarian option because they view it as an inferior version of its meat counterpart. I think this needs a reframe. The walnut-mushroom filling in these tacos isn’t ‘trying to be meat.’ It’s just another delicious flavor combination to enjoy. And more flavor combinations mean more tasty molecular information for your body!”
Like all of Casey’s recipes, this one delivers a ton of micronutrients without a large glucose spike. Here are some of the ingredients and why she loves them.
- Walnuts are a great source of alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that promotes cell health. They’re also rich in polyphenols, which can help reduce inflammation.
- Cashews are packed with iron, plant protein, and healthy fat.
- Onions, like all plants in the allium family, contain sulfur, which is thought to protect DNA against damage and mutations.
- Mushrooms offer a generous serving of polysaccharides, a type of carb that has prebiotic benefits and may combat insulin resistance. Mushrooms exposed to UV light can also deliver a significant dose of vitamin D.
- Cabbage has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Avocados have quite a bit of fiber, which can lower blood sugar and contributes to a thriving microbiome.
- Garlic is another inflammation-fighting ingredient and contains selenium, a powerful antioxidant.
- Grass-fed beef, ideally from a regenerative farm, has a better micronutrient profile than standard beef. Research has shown, for instance, that livestock raised on quality soil tends to contain more omega-3 fats.
- A fermented topper, such as sauerkraut, will add a microbial punch to support gut health.
In case all those metabolic benefits haven’t convinced you, Casey assures, “These tacos also happen to taste incredible—and you can make them in less than 30 minutes for under $30.” Follow along as Casey prepares her tacos in the video above, or scroll down for the full recipe.
Serving = 4 tacos
Vegan mushroom walnut filling
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp cumin
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp chipotle powder or cayenne
- 1 lb pasture-raised beef, 70-80% lean (organic if possible)
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 cup salsa
- Purple cabbage and white cabbage, or any fermented foods you have in the fridge
- Avocado slices
- 2-3 lime wedges
Walnut filling (inspired by The Simple Veganista)
- In a food processor, combine mushrooms, walnuts, tamari, and spices.
- Pulse until crumbly. This should only take 3-4 pulses, so be careful not to overdo it (you don’t want it smooth).
- Add additional spices to taste.
- Optional: place filling in a medium skillet and heat on low until warm. Filling may also be warmed in the microwave.
Beef filling (inspired by House of Yumm)
- Add the ground beef to a large skillet and cook over medium heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, break apart the meat as it browns.
- Once the meat is fully cooked, drain grease from the pan. Return the meat to the pan and place on low heat.
- Stir in taco seasoning and tomato sauce.
- Continue stirring until sauce coats the meat. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Blend cashews and salsa in a Vitamix or any high-speed blender until emulsified and creamy.
- Add water or more salsa to thin the sauce to your liking.
- Place a scoop of filling in a lettuce wrap, Siete almond flour tortilla, or homemade flaxseed tortilla.
- Top with cashew cream sauce and avocado slices. If desired, add purple cabbage and white cabbage, or any fermented topper.
- Serve with lime wedges.