Food helps us build metabolically healthy bodies. Every meal and every ingredient contains molecular information that tells our cells what to do and gives them the energy they need to do it. Given as much, the decisions you make at the grocery store and in the kitchen are some of the most important decisions you make each day.
“Depending on the ingredients you use, food can either help you become the best version of yourself or thwart your health goals,” says Levels co-founder and chief medical officer Dr. Casey Means. “So many chronic diseases are driven by an abundance of bad information—nutritionally void, processed food–and a dearth of good information—molecular messages that help your cells thrive.”
How Casey Thinks about Ingredients
Originally trained as a surgeon, Casey left the operating room to work toward solutions that would help prevent people from ending up there. In large part, she says, this comes down to food. “Food is one of the greatest tools to understand and control our health destiny,” says Casey. According to her, health-promoting meals contain a few key components: fiber, omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and a ton of micronutrients, like zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
As a first step toward achieving your micronutrient goals, Casey recommends shopping with an eye toward color. “When you’re picking out produce, more color variety tends to mean more nutrient variety,” she says.
You can find much of what you need at your standard grocery store, though the most nutritious ingredients typically come from a farmers’ market or other locally-sourced, organic vendor. That’s because, even among healthy foods, nutritional value can vary depending on how that food is grown. Poor soil quality, for instance, reduces nutrient density in fruits and vegetables; and pesticides can contribute to obesity.
This is all to say: we benefit from being mindful of what we’re eating. Though your food decisions have serious consequences, the decision process needn’t be joyless. On the contrary, says Casey, preparing food should be fun and straightforward.
“I think food is a creative and empowering outlet—it’s a multisensory experience,” she says.
Introducing Levels Kitchen
If you need a little creative inspiration, you’re not alone. Levels members often request recipes to help them maximize micronutrients while minimizing glucose spikes. In response, Levels recently launched a YouTube series called Levels Kitchen. Hosted by Casey, the series outlines principles of cooking for metabolic health and shows you how to transform comfort food recipes into nutrient-packed, low-glycemic dishes.
“Everyone always asks me, ‘what do you eat?’” says Casey. “I don’t label myself as having a particular diet because I think of food as a set of molecular and chemical tools to support the functioning of the machine of my body.”
In each episode, Casey elaborates on this food philosophy as she shows you how to make an affordable, healthy meal that doesn’t take all day to prepare. With the addition of each ingredient, she describes its benefits, ranging from reduced inflammation to antioxidant perks. More than just another cooking show, this series helps you understand the why behind a recipe’s components and how different foods can support your journey to better metabolic health.
To learn more about Casey’s journey and hear why she’s so excited about food as a tool for better health, check out the mini-documentary above.