The Wonderful World of Wellness
By Eromo Egbejule
Our bodies are supermachines that perform a host of complex tasks, most of which are beyond our comprehension. But supermachines are still machines and as such are prone to breakdowns in the absence of routine maintenance and software upgrades. This is where wellness and other health sciences come in, helping our bodies maximize their potential.
In today’s Daily Dose, we meet fascinating entrepreneurs inspired by old customs, highlight the traditional treatments that influenced them and bust a series of myths that have circulated for years in the wellness and diet industries.
STEER CLEAR OF THESE MYTHS
All Cholesterol Is Bad
For years, wellness experts have parroted on radio and TV and in books that cholesterol is an enemy of good health. As it turns out, even though too much low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL, can lead to a risk of heart disease, having high levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s because HDL cholesterol is flushed from the body. Eating whole grains and high-fiber fruit can help lower your LDL levels, which will improve your ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.
If you’re hitting the beach or stepping out on a hot sunny day, you know you should apply sunscreen, then slather on more every couple of hours after that. And indeed, applying sunblock in those situations will help reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging. But here’s the plot twist: We should use sunscreen every day, not just on those that are sunny. “Unless you are completely shaded and protected from the sun, you still need sunscreen on cloudy days,” says Jonathan Leventhal, an onco-dermatologist at Yale Medicine. Oh, and even if you have dark skin, you should still be using sunblock.
Fat Into Muscle
In a world where fatphobia is increasingly enveloping us, it’s normal to be told that if you put in the work in the gym to convert fat into muscle, you can achieve a conventionally attractive body type. But as London-based trainer Hollie Grant says, “This is akin to saying you can turn a dog into a cat.” Swapping fat for muscle is hard. Muscles are built by consuming a protein-rich diet and undertaking strength training. So if you’re aiming to lose that extra flab, good for you. Just don’t expect to gain a six-pack in the process.
Microwaving Kills Nutrients
You’ve definitely heard this one: Heating food in the microwave — one of the most utilitarian inventions created in the past century, if you ask me — saps it of its nutrients. However, scientists at Harvard and Cornell universities have countered by pointing out that while cooking by any method does indeed destroy some nutrients, “microwave cooking is actually one of the least likely forms of cooking” to do so.
In 2011, the Nigerian-American entrepreneur quit her job at a Fortune 500 company in the energy sector and moved to Nigeria to work for the government as a ministerial adviser. Four years later, she launched Oríkì, a natural skincare luxury brand named after a Yoruba word that means “your crown, heritage and inspiration.” Awojoodu, whose products cater to both men and women, works with small farms across the value chain in Nigeria and other African countries to source raw materials. The business also includes a luxury spa and men’s grooming parlor. At a time when many global luxury products ignore the specific skin and hair types of African ethnicities, can Awojoodu’s homegrown secrets offer a fix?
The Baltimore-based pediatric nurse is leading an outdoor camping revolution for people of color, a group that has largely been excluded from hiking. As a young woman growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Wells didn’t go on her first hike until she was in her 20s, and she quickly realized that she was usually one of only a few people of color present at these outdoor excursions. Now, Backyard Basecamp, Wells’ environmental organization, is offering racial minority families a retreat on a 10-acre green space just outside Baltimore. The idea is to connect them with nature and create more equitable access to green space overall.
The 25-year-old serial entrepreneur and aesthetician is the founder and CEO of Mount Lai, a beauty brand that’s taking traditional Chinese medicine to international audiences. The business is named after Mount Penglai, a mythical land with the secret to eternal youth. Zheng was inspired to start the brand by her grandmother, who performed traditional wellness rituals such as jade rolling and gua sha face scraping for decades. But it was at New York University’s Stern School of Business where she learned modern finance and marketing skills. Zheng’s entrepreneurial streak was evident early — she started her first business, an online jewelry store, at the age of 15. Today, Mount Lai’s products are stocked at major U.S. outlets like Sephora.
While working and studying law in Cape Town, the Ugandan entrepreneur was drawn to create products for Africa’s growing natural hair movement after struggling to find natural styling products for her own hair. Now, she’s among a handful of women driving that movement, helping the continent overcome colonial and racial stereotypes. The Good Hair Collective, the hair care line of her brand Kentaro Handmade Organics, uses shea butter and other essential oils to help African women take care of their natural hair without having to worry about harmful chemicals or contend with expensive, imported ingredients.
TRADITIONAL WELLNESS PRACTICES
This more than 3,000-year-old wellness tradition originating in India literally means “science of life” in Sanskrit. It preaches relaxation, meditation, cleansing, connecting with nature and more while eschewing the use of chemicals. The diet promoted by Ayurveda is believed to be extremely beneficial in preventing hair loss and strengthening hair. Additionally, Ayurvedic herbs are also prescribed to help cure digestion problems and skin issues and to help speed up metabolism. Western medicine is now exploring whether one, turmeric, helps reduce inflammation and whether another herb, ashwagandha, is useful in the treatment of neurological disorders like depression and epilepsy.
Native to Southern Africa, this alternative therapy gets its name from the Zulu word umuthi, meaning “tree.” Its purported uses vary from (failed) attempts at bringing luck to the South African team at the 2010 soccer World Cup to supposedly treating erectile dysfunction and sexually transmitted diseases. Animal parts and herbs are central to muti. Many South Africans are quietly dismissive of the practice, but they’ve heard enough stories of how it has helped save lives and even aided in prison escapes to know better than to forcefully dispute its powers.
Centuries after the Spanish colonization of Latin America, this form of folk healing emerged as a combination of the traditional healing practices of Aztec, Maya and Inca people, and foreign Catholic rites. Called curanderismo, it derives its name from the Spanish verb curar, or “cure,” and has served as an antidote to illnesses that were often believed to be punishment meted out by displeased gods. Practitioners are referred to as curanderos and they are active even now, offering herbs, prayers and massages to followers across Central and South America, the U.S. and beyond.
- Eromo Egbejule, OZY Author Contact Eromo Egbejule