Casey Means, MD is the Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder of metabolic health company Levels. Her mission is to maximize human potential and reverse the epidemic of preventable chronic disease by empowering individuals with tools that can facilitate deep understanding of our bodies and inform personalized and sustainable dietary and lifestyle choices. Her book on metabolic health, Good Energy, comes out in early 2024 with Penguin Random House. Dr. Means has been a lecturer and course director at Stanford University on food and health, and her perspective has been recently featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Women’s Health, Men's Health, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and many more.
1. What's in your pantry right now? What are some of your go-tos for wellness and for flavor?
In my pantry, I always have a variety of organic canned beans for fiber and protein to add to salads. I have a large selection of organic vinegars since these are great for insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.
My favorite oil is Biodynamic, regenerative Avocado oil from Apricot Lane Farms - the flavor is out of this world! I have several cans of wild caught sardines, which have 2200mg Omega-3 per can!
I have a wide variety of nuts and seeds, and use a lot of basil seeds from Zenbasil (super high omega-3 and fiber content!), pecans (one of the highest antioxidant nuts), pumpkin seeds (filled with magnesium for relaxation), almonds (for making homemade almond milk), and walnuts (these are great in smoothies!).
I like Kettle & Fire bone broth for some satiating protein in the evenings without a lot of calories. I have huge packs of organic Nori sheets which I use instead of tortillas for wraps as a low-carb alternative. I have a stock pile of organic NuPasta, which is a high fiber konjac root pasta with no net carbs (and it's delicious).
I have a ton of dried spices like oregano, cumin, dill, thyme, allspice, and mustard seed, as spices have some of the highest antioxidant content of any foods. For sauces, I always have a few bottles of Primal Kitchens buffalo sauce and Erewhon hot sauce for flavor. I put capers on everything so have lots of bottles of those. And of course, Spicewell salt and pepper!
2. What's your favorite comfort food? No judgments!
I love BBQ! I was vegan for many years and now eat some animal products, and BBQ brisket is my top choice comfort food these days!
3. What is your go-to home remedy using spices, foods or herbs?
I take hoards of turmeric for its anti-inflammatory benefit, as it's well known that curcumin in turmeric inhibits the Nf-kB inflammatory pathway-- I usually put a tablespoon in my morning smoothie with a bit of black pepper (which increases effectiveness), and I'll sprinkle it liberally on cauliflower rice and other savory dishes.
I will up my turmeric intake (and supplement with capsules of curcumin) if I'm dealing with a muscle ache. I also crush and eat several cloves of raw garlic if I feel that I'm getting any time of viral or infectious illness, as the allicin in raw garlic has strong anti-microbial properties.
4. Tell us about one experience where nutrition changed your life.
When I was a surgical resident, working 100 hour weeks and eating mostly ultra-processed foods from the hospital cafeteria around the clock, my health took a huge and immediate nose dive. At this time in my mid-20s, I went from perfect health to a constellation of acne, depression, chronic neck pain, and irritable bowel syndrome, which lasted for a few years and were very distressing. After this period, I immediately got back to cooking almost all my food and eating a predominantly whole foods, plant based, organic diet, and every symptom went away in just a couple months. Food IS medicine.
5. What's one health or nutrition tip you would recommend to our readers?
Learn to cook, even if it's just a few simple the basics!! I don't think you can have optimal health if you're not preparing most of your meals at home, or at least knowing exactly what's going in to them. Once you become proficient with a few simple strategies in the kitchen, like making a salad dressing you love, roasting vegetables, or making a veggie-filled frittata, the world of health opens up! I would recommend going to cooking classes with friends, or watching some basic cooking shows on Youtube to learn!
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