Years ago, a heavily pregnant Dr. Unoma Okorafor went looking for organic, non-GMO papaya fruit and leaves to help support her pregnancy. She seemed like just another pregnant woman searching for fruits. And yet, she walked out of the store — without the papaya — about to begin a new chapter in her life.
A Tech Career with a Healthy Twist
Raised by parents with strong educational backgrounds, Dr. Okorafor was encouraged as a child to be ambitious and follow her dreams. She studied computer engineering at the University of Lagos, topping her class. She earned a master’s degree from Rice University and a Ph. D. from Texas A & M, both in computer engineering.
Dr. Okorafor moved to Dallas in 2008 where she built a career and a company in tech. In her free time, Dr. Okorafor volunteered at shelters or organizations.
“I realized that not only was I passionate about my job,” she said, “I was also passionate about health, wellness, and making a difference.”
She attributed her community spirit and value to growing up in Nigeria, where one person’s problem is everyone’s, and people work together to help one another.
Her youth in Nigeria also fostered her love of organic, homegrown fruits and vegetables. She said she visits the farmer’s market whenever she can to look through fresh fruits on display.
“I always told my colleagues about southeastern Nigeria,” Dr. Okorafor said. “You would know a fruit was in season because of its distinct smell in the air. Due to poor storage facilities, when fruit was in season, it was sold and eaten everywhere. Even birds would binge on them!”
In 2013, Dr. Okorafor decided to focus on health advocacy. This was during her pregnancy, after her fruitless search for organic, non-GMO papayas. Raised on fresh organic papayas just plucked from trees in Nigeria, she was amazed to discover the radical differences in taste and nutritional content between the wild-grown organic papayas and the GMO papaya varieties abundant in stores in the USA.
“I went searching store to store for non-GMO papayas,” she said. “I knew if I needed this fruit, someone out there did, too. I felt a strong need to do something, and that is how Herbal Goodness was born.”
Herbal Goodness is Dr. Okorafor’s company selling premium-quality superfoods and herbal supplements for healthy living. She received three orders just a few hours after launching her website. It was such a hopeful sign.
She quit her job to build her wellness brand on that hope. Her husband, Dr. Ekpe Okorafor, supported her mission to focus solely on healthy living as a career.
Healthy Living Paired with Impact
Nutrition experts say poor nutrition is the leading cause of illness in the US, and is responsible for more than half a million deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
“Food can be applied as medicine, not medicine as food,” Dr. Okorafor said. “This message is the very foundation of Herbal Goodness: Supporting the health of women and men across the globe through a premium quality plant-based diet.”
With half of US adults having diabetes or prediabetes, Dr. Okorafor said if we become more mindful of what we put in our bodies, we can achieve a state of health and wellness we never thought possible. Cutting back on sugar, processed foods, and salts, while eating more non-GMO fruits and vegetables, helps keep the body healthy.
Through her work with Herbal Goodness, Dr. Okorafor often works in the fields alongside her farmers and has a scholarship program for children of her women farmers. She also established the WAAW Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting STEM education for young girls and women in Africa. She channels 10% of profits made in selling Herbal Goodness products to support this cause. To date, the WAAW Foundation has impacted more than 35,000 students.
“I believe health is a journey,” Dr. Okorafor said. “It’s not a destination or a one-time goal; it is a way of life with so many benefits and rewards. It’s about being in charge of your life and habits for a better you. I believe there is no time like now to start making healthy choices.”