Junking the Junk Food Habit

Junking the Junk Food Habit

March 1, 2021 • by Mai Zahrat


Junking the Junk Food Habit

Junking the Junk Food Habit 1920 1080 Mai Zahrat

This article is part of our series on small companies with a big mission in five areas: women, kids, community, planet, and hope. Click here for more articles in the series.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then we may have a problem.

Collectively, Americans consume $200 billion worth of fast food every year, and to make matters worse, the problem isn’t slated to go away in future generations. Regardless of family income, 1 in 3 kids and adolescents consume fast food over the course of a day, some receiving up to 40% of their calories from such sources.

Small wonder that youth obesity rates climbed nearly 400% from 1971 to 2018. Routinely eating foods with poor nutritional value sets kids up for long-term health struggles like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. But there are more immediate repercussions, as well.

As a middle school math and English teacher, Zobaida Falah observed first hand the negative effect that subpar diets had upon her students’ energy and focus throughout the school day.

“When I would see my students eating so poorly, and I would ask them, ‘Why do you guys eat that?’ they would say, ‘Well, healthy food doesn’t taste good’,” she relates. “It was really disheartening to see our youth in that mindset.”

A “Cure for Everything”

A closeup of a spoonful of black seed and a small bottle of honey

In 2016, Zobaida set out to “change the way people view food” with a social enterprise rooted in healthy eating, family traditions, and giving back.

Zobaida credits her grandmother, Wafiqa, with teaching her how delicious natural foods could be. Every morning, the family ate a spoonful of sesame seeds, honey, almonds, and black seeds – her grandmother’s signature mixture, which she referred to as her “cure for everything.”

“Black seed is very big in our culture and religion,” remarks Zobaida of the most powerful, yet least-known ingredient in her grandmother’s recipe. “Many Middle-Easterners, Palestinians, Arabs, use the black seed in their cuisine.”

Black seed comes from the Nigella Sativa plant, an annual native to southwestern Asia and parts of the Mediterranean. Today, however, it’s cultivated over a wide region stretching as far as southern Europe, India and into parts of Africa.

Wafiqa’s recipe became a kind of family legacy. Each time her mother stirred up a batch, Zobaida recalls, her father would remark that “his dream would be for this to be turned into something that people could enjoy with their cup of coffee.”

Years later, that dream is coming true with black seed products from Zobaida’s young company, Cure Your World.

Wafiqa’s original, four-ingredient mixture was served on a spoon, so the first task was to make it more accessible and convenient. Zobaida added a handful of clean, natural ingredients like gluten-free grains, chia seeds, and organic coconut oil to create a product she called the CURE bar.

Baked-In Impact

Zobaida Fallah handing out CURE bars to children in The Gambia

One additional ingredient was baked in from the start, though it didn’t appear on the label: social impact. For every CURE bar that she sold, Zobaida donated a bar to individuals experiencing homelessness in her community – then listened to the feedback offered by recipients. Besides doing something good, it was “an interesting way to create a focus group,” she says of the process that ultimately led to the creation of new varieties like Coconut Cashew and Peanut Butter.

The original flavor changed, as well. Dental issues are a common problem in homeless shelters, and Zobaida heard over and over again that the bars – made with whole almonds – were too crunchy and hard on the teeth. So, she experimented with chopping and dicing the nuts, resulting in a softer, chewier bar that customers love, regardless of their housing situation.

Today, Cure has expanded their impact beyond the 1-for-1 model and donates more broadly to U.S. food banks. “We donate 10% of our profits to hunger relief programs,” Zobaida says. “We believe that we don’t just want to help ourselves, we want to help our customers, but we also want to help those less fortunate, who aren’t purchasing our products.”

And of course, for a company called Cure Your World, Zobaida knew the impact couldn’t stop at U.S. borders. International efforts have included helping to build a horticultural garden in The Gambia and planting olive trees in Palestine, where 80,000 families depend on olive farming.

Beyond Snacking

Cure Your World founder Zobaida Fallah holding her signature CURE bar

Known alternatively as black cumin or black caraway, black seed has a reputation beyond its status as a culinary lift. Thanks to the presence of a compound called Thymoquinone, black seed, and especially the oil extracted from it, has been shown to have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Research attributes some cancer-fighting properties to black seed, and one study out of Saudi Arabia concluded taking black seed oil could help mitigate toxicity from some conventional cancer treatments.

In the interest of making black seed available in as many forms as possible, Cure Your World launched a line of black seed supplements in 2019. Catering to home cooks as well as habitual supplement-takers, the cold-pressed, organic oil is available bottled, and in capsules.

Explaining why she diversified Cure’s product offering, Zobaida says “the mission kind of shifted.”

“We still want to get black seed into people’s homes, and get people to eat black seed because it’s so healthy,” she explains. “But some people, like older people maybe, they don’t just want to eat a snack bar.”

The product lineup has expanded in other ways, as well. Turmeric, another herb famed for reducing inflammation, now makes an appearance along with black pepper extract, which may help to enhance the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

While the link between personal care like supplements and the world’s greater social ills could seem questionable at a glance, Zobaida insists the two go hand in hand.

“The name Cure, it’s a play on words,” she says, acknowledging her grandmother’s belief in the healing benefits of black seed. “We call ourselves Cure Your World, and that’s because we want you to take that initiative to eat more health-consciously, as well as give back to the less fortunate.

“Cure yourself by eating better, and cure your world by doing good – and purchasing conscious products that also give back.”

***

Spend for good: At the Cure Your World online shop, you’ll find three delicious varieties of all-natural CURE bars as well as dietary supplements in liquid and capsule form. Bars are available in convenient 12-count packages, with a 15% discount for a monthly or semi-monthly subscription.

Pledge for good: Every week we offer original reporting to help you create a better world with the money you’re spending anyway. Click here to join the movement by taking the Spend-Gooder Pledge. All it takes is 30 seconds (and 0 dollars).

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Cause: Hope • Format: Small Wonders
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