To say that someone is innovative does not fully express the depth of her nature. Innovation requires us to introduce something new to the world or challenge the status quo, and doing so necessitates a host of other compelling characteristics. In many cases, to be innovative is to be inspired, brilliant, insightful, purpose-driven, and pioneering. It also demands thorough mastery of a particular subject matter and the audacity to believe things could be done differently. The following wellness trail blazers demonstrate all of these qualities, and more.
Each person featured on this list is doing deeply impactful work in his or her individual realm—from yoga and fitness to meditation, neuroscience, technology, and nutrition—and their contributions are shaping the future of these spheres. More importantly, their work is saving lives, changing lives, and helping us be healthier, happier, better. Taken as a sum, you’ll likely get the sense that the following 50 people might just change the world—and the truth is, you’re probably right.
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Founder and CEO of Bulletproof
A self-professed professional biohacker, who lost 100 pounds and increased his IQ, all by his own devising, Dave Asprey wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Bullet Proof Diet, and created Bulletproof Coffee in 2009. Asprey writes and talks about biochemistry and improving health and performance without the usual hacks of counting calories and over-exerting through exercise. His coffee concoction alone, which contains grass-fed butter and brain octane oil, has made Asprey somewhat of a celebrity in the wellness space, but his writing on health and diet contain some of the most innovative thinking in nutrition and exercise today.
UN peacekeeper and founder of Amanuddin Foundation
French-born Amandine Roche worked as a human rights lawyer for the United Nations in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014. During this time her colleagues were kidnapped and killed and she was forced to evacuate to save her life. Suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, and more, Roche escaped to India to heal. Rather than move on, however, Roche returned to Kabul to teach yoga and meditation to women, children, and even Taliban members as a way to help them cope with the trauma of living in a war-torn region. (Hear Roche talk about what it’s like to meditate with the Taliban in this video.) In 2011, she founded the Amanuddin Foundation, which means “religion of peace” in Farsi, to promote these non-violent, mind-body techniques and help bring social justice to an impoverished, post-conflict country.
Jeff Krasno and Schuyler Grant
Co-founders of Wanderlust
Husband-wife duo Jeff Krasno and Schuyler Grant are akin to the royal family of the yoga world. While Krasno was pursuing a successful career in music, Grant gained renown as the owner of Kula Yoga Project, a premier alignment-based yoga studio in New York City. (You can read more about Grant’s work on our list of 100 Most Influential Yoga Teachers in America.) As Grant began taking her Kula method around the world teaching retreats, workshops, and trainings, she and her husband started to think about melding the joy of communal yoga with music festival trappings, and Wanderlust Yoga Festival was born in 2009. The global festival has ultimately served as the foundation of a unique and innovative brand that includes a media company, a network of yoga studios, and “wellness clubhouse” destinations, the most recent of which launched in Los Angeles last year.
Related on Yoga Journal: 10 Yoga Innovators You Should Know
Founder of the Parker Institute
Former president of Facebook and founder of the defunct file-sharing service, Napster, Sean Parker recently donated $250 million to establish the Parker Institute (a new initiative from the year-old Parker Foundation) with the mission of researching and developing a form of cancer treatment called immunotherapy, which uses the immune system to fight the disease. This will be the first time that the country’s leading immunologists and cancer centers—Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center—will unify under a single nonprofit biomedical research organization. Considering Parker’s track record—the internet billionaire changed how the world consumes music and makes “friends”—he just might cure cancer. Here’s hoping!
Corporate wellness pioneer
With the job title of chief evangelist for brand marketing at Google, you know Gopi Kallayil is not your average corporate figure. Over the last decade, the India-born yogi has brought mindfulness and meditation to the workplace—and not just his own—promoting these mental tools well before they became popular on Google Adwords (an invaluable marketing tool he helped create). “It’s amazing that technologies have allowed us to establish relationships with thousands of people around the world, but the most important relationship you can have is the one with yourself,” he said at a 2011 TEDx Talk in Berkley, California, which highlighted key messages that would later appear in his book, The Internet to the Inner-net, published last fall. Even just a minute of yoga and a minute of meditation a day will make a difference, according to Kallayil.
Related: Yoga Is Not Your Therapy—Here’s Why
T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.
Author of The China Study and founder of T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
The China Study was the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted, and the book of the same name that followed, while controversial, influenced—and continues to shape—expert and public perception of what constitutes a healthy diet. The central focus of this research is the role the consumption of animal products play in the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It led to the popular documentary Forks Over Knives and to Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies, which is now a popular launching pad for the careers of countless plant-based nutritionists, chefs, and activists.
Co-founder of Whole30
Hartwig created Whole30—a Paleo-leaning nutrition and lifestyle program—with co-founder Dallas Hartwig in 2009, and in less than 10 years, it has become the Weight Watchers of the 21st Century. More than 100,000 people have tried it, many of whom swear by their life-changing health results. It has spawned books and cookbooks, an overwhelmingly large, active community forum, and a Whole30-approved label that health food purveyors promote on their products. Hartwig didn’t create a diet, she has built a forward-thinking healthy lifestyle movement that’s sure to become even more widespread and influential in years to come.
Dawn Estelle Archer
Trainer and founder of SWEAT with @estellearcher
Dawn Estelle Archer created her dance conditioning workout method in a parking lot in Richmond, Virginia, and then took it on the road to teach it in all 50 states in 2014, where her approach quickly snowballed into a phenomenon, primarily attracting women for whom working out was not routine. She now has her own studio, livestream classes, and more than 217,000 Instagram followers, who weigh in regularly with comments like, “I never knew dancing, or as she would say SWEATING, could be so much FUN! Thank you for making exercising fun for me.” And she does it all from a place of body positivity: The bodies represented in her feed and workout videos are diverse and imperfect—or, in other words, real.
Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric
Founders of The November Project
In 2011, Graham and Mandaric started meeting up with friends in the early morning hours to work out outside. That simple action has since turned into a grassroots fitness phenomenon called The November Project, which has about 30 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, all of which host free workouts (often before the sun is up) that hundreds of college students and young professionals show up for week after week. The pair also just published a book that tells their origin story and gives people a peek into the culture surrounding a movement that appears to just be getting started.
Founder of Yoga Medicine
Tiffany Cruikshank is an internationally renowned yoga instructor, who has spent the past 20 years crafting a methodology for teaching and practicing yoga, wherein the practice is melded with Eastern and Western notions of medicine. Cruikshank’s teaching is held up by her work as a holistic health practitioner, acupuncturist, and sports medicine expert. Based in Seattle, Cruikshank teaches regularly for YogaGlo, and travels extensively around the world. She is also the author of the new book Meditate Your Weight. Her approach has helped thousands of yogis around the world see their practice in a new light as a result of Cruikshank’s innovative thinking and dedication to the practice.
Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Nemen
Founders of Sweetgreen
Sweetgreen is raising the salad bar. The nine-year-old farm-to-takeout quick-service food chain, which has 54 locations (and counting) nationwide, specializes in fresh, organic ingredients sourced from local farmers, but their impact goes far beyond your lunch order. The company is also known for its sustainable business practices and its support for nutrition education in schools. “Kids are our future,” Jammet recently told Refinery29.com. “Our Sweetgreen in Schools program teaches kids about eco-literacy, wellness, nutrition, and seasonality, and we’re working with local partners to put salad bars and gardens in schools.” Since launching a classroom curriculum in 2010, more than 1,000 students across four states (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New York) participate annually in wellness workshops, learning the true value of a healthy diet and healthy planet.
Yoga teacher and founder of Uptown Yoga Festival
An authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher and owner of Land Yoga in Harlem, New York City, Lara Land has been practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years. Land has traveled the world to some of the most impoverished countries, introducing yoga therapy to HIV positive children and adults. Land continues to support various social justice efforts in NYC. She started the Uptown Yoga Festival to bring free yoga to the community, has a huge benefit at the Red Rooster each year for yoga-related causes and started a non-profit, Three and a Half Acres, which brings yoga to vulnerable populations like homeless LGBTQ youth, and people living with HIV/AIDs. While many studio owners are a gentrifying force in their neighborhood, Land’s inclusivity, direction, and integrity has set a new standard.
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Kurt Workman and Jordan Monroe
Co-founders of Owlet
“Wearables” represent a rapidly growing and evolving segment of the tech industry that many say will revolutionize the way we live in years to come. Kurt Workman and Jordan Monroe of Provo, Utah, may be responsible for the most adorable development in this category: the Owlet Smart Sock, a washable baby booty with a pulse oximeter that monitors your infant’s heart rate and blood-oxygen levels while he or she sleeps. Parents can check on baby’s vitals via the Owlet mobile app, which also alerts you if your baby stops breathing. This innovative product debuted with rave reviews at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show and is sure to bring many new parents peace of mind.
Co-founder and CEO of Beachbody
Whether or not you’re beach-bound, you can appreciate how Carl Daikeler has helped people lose weight and get in shape at home since launching the California-based brand in 1998. Beachbody’s wildly popular fitness programs, including Tony Horton’s P90X series and Shaun T.’s Insanity, have revolutionized living-room-workouts and what it means to be an athlete and coach. In fact, Daikeler has empowered people all over the world to train to become paid coaches through Beachbody, and change their lives—as well as those in their community—to evangelize the brand and empower more Americans get healthy.
Yoga teacher and founder of Yoga for Bad People
Over the past few years, since founding her chic yoga retreat company Yoga for Bad People, Heather Lilleston has become somewhat of a household name in the wellness world. Rigorously trained through the Jivamukti method under Sharon Gannon and David Life, and later under Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee, Lilleston has been teaching yoga for nearly 15 years, more recently become a lead teacher in training programs at both Yoga Shanti and Yoga Vida in New York City. Today, Lilleston brings her yoga teaching methodology alongside an approachable, non-judgmental, yoga culture to retreat centers in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Related: 25 Stunning Places in the World to Find Peace of Mind
Mason and Sarah Levey
Co-founders of Y7 Yoga
Mason and Sarah Levey founded Y7 Yoga in 2013 when they moved to New York from Detroit, Michigan. They wanted to create a studio that would offer an alternative to the more lineage-based classical yoga studios they saw and were turned off by. Inspired by the innovation of the ridiculously successful and trend-setting SoulCycle—which even after its IPO continues to draw much critique from the cycling world—the husband-wife duo devised a similarly anti-establishment studio that was fun, hip, and appealing for all fitness types. The Leveys turned off all the lights, paired heart-pumping fast paced yoga with hip-hop music, and a new trend was born: “A Tribe Called Sweat.” With five studios open and plans for more, soon Y7 may be as prominent as some of the other boutique fitness studios across the country.
Nina Tandon, Ph.D.
Co-founder and CEO of EpiBone
Nina Tandon, recently named one of Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers, has a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the Cooper Union, a Masters in bioelectrical engineering from MIT, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, and an MBA from Columbia University. In addition to her influential teaching, speaking, and research, Tandon is the founder of EpiBone, a bone reconstruction company that has created a revolutionary technology that allows patients to “grow their own bone.” EpiBone aims to simplify the more than 900,000 a year bone-related surgeries, and offer a significantly superior bone graft that will make these procedures and bone defect corrections more exact and more effective over the long-term.
Co-founder of Headspace
After being ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Puddicombe went on to create an app that would allow busy people all over the world to reap the benefits of meditation via a simple, daily practice. Headspace’s secular, 10-minutes-a-day approach is now making meditation more accessible for people from many different walks of life, from busy working professionals to smartphone-obsessed teenagers. To date, an estimated 7.5 million people in 190 countries have used the Headspace app as their go-to source for meditation instruction and peace of mind.
Chief spiritual officer of MNDFL and founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership
A meditation teacher from the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, Lodro Rinzler’s work is focused on creating social consciousness, and he does it in a way that speaks to Millennials and seasoned practitioners alike. He’s the author of The Buddha Walks into a Bar… and The Buddha Walks into the Office, a contributor to Sonima.com, and the co-founder of New York City’s first drop-in group meditation studio, MNDFL. At his Institute for Compassionate Leadership, he’s training a new generation of leaders in how to channel their passions into meaningful work that contributes to a more compassionate world.
Chef and health advocate
The world-renowned chef has had a long-held appreciation for creating healthful meals using fresh ingredients, and now, after dedicating more than 30 years to his work as one of New York City’s most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, he is doubling down on his commitment to wellness. In June he announced that he will temporarily close his flagship restaurant, Bouley, and take an 18-month sabbatical to travel around the world to deepen his study of the relationship between health and food. He’s currently writing a book called Living Pantry about healthful eating and he has plans to create a website and app in the same vein. In coming years, Bouley is poised to be a driving force in the culinary world’s influence on improving American health.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei
Spiritual teacher and author
Author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace, which was acclaimed by Pulitzer winners and Buddhist teachers alike, Reverend angel Kyodo williams is a Sensei, an ordained Zen Priest, and has been a spiritual teacher and author for over 15 years. Recognized in her field as one of the most profound voices on the connection between inner and social transformation, Kyodo williams “envisions the building of a presence-centered social justice movement as the foundation for personal freedom, a just society and the healing of divisions of race, class, faith and politic.” Kyodo williams was the second black woman ordained in her lineage, and has been a resounding voice on social justice and racial tensions through a Buddhist framework. Her whole message is about innovation: “Change the way change is done.”
Related: 9 Meditation Teachers You Should Know
Yoga teacher and founder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition
Yoga’s representation in mainstream media often mimics the primary issues that fashion and beauty have propagated since their inception, equating perfection with thin-ness, whiteness, and a false confidence that is wrapped up in overt sexuality. The Yoga and Body Image Coalition, founded by Melanie Klein seeks to make yoga more accessible by speaking out against the harmful media paradigms that have caused so much exclusivity and shaming in the yoga world. Additionally the coalition seeks to create communities and environments that are welcoming of all practitioners regardless of physicality, race, and gender. Klein is a professor of Women’s Studies and Sociology at Santa Monica College and has written several books that have paved the way for body positivity in the yoga world.
Related: 30 Beautiful Photos That Dispel the “Yoga Body” Myth
Richard Davidson, Ph.D.
Researcher and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds
Thanks to the development of fMRI technology in the 1980s, the body of research about the neurological effects of meditation has increased exponentially over the last few decades. Richard Davidson has been at the forefront of this research since the beginning of his career in neuroscience, and he is still one of the leading scientists in the field. In speaking engagements and interviews, Davidson cites the influence of his friend the Dalai Lama as the impetus for shifting his research from focusing solely on stress, anxiety, and depression, to include practices of kindness, compassion, and meditation. His groundbreaking work has greatly shaped our current understanding of emotions, contemplative practice, and the brain. His insights, as well as the research produced under his leadership at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are central in conversations about the future of human flourishing and well-being.
Michael McLoughlin, Ph.D.
Chief of engineering at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
When it comes to unbelievable innovations in medicine, it wasn’t too long ago that Michael McLoughlin’s work was the stuff of science fiction. His modular prosthetic limbs (MPLs) are neutrally controlled artificial limbs that restore motor and sensory capability to amputees. Earlier this year a pioneering surgical technique allowed a patient to attach an MPL directly to his residual limb, resulting in unprecedented range of motion and comfort. In initial tests following the surgery, Johns Hopkins University reported that the amputee was able manipulate his prosthetic to demonstrate individual finger control, simultaneous finger control, two degrees of freedom at the wrist, multiple grasps, and worked through simulated activities of daily living—all under the control of his mind.
Yoga teacher and social justice advocate
Seane Corn is a celebrated Vinyasa yoga teacher who has developed worldwide recognition for the past 20 years. She has become a leading voice in merging yoga ethics with social justice values and is the founder of Off The Mat Into The World, an organization that engenders yogic values into social impact service work. Corn is known not only for her teaching, but her ability to speak passionately and powerfully about the need for action off the mat, and into the world. Corn’s impact has been profound, as she remains the loudest, most impassioned, and most innovative voice in the mainstream yoga world doing incredibly important and un-glamorous work to make this world more equal and more free.
Co-founder and CEO of Peloton
While boutique fitness studios like SoulCycle and Flywheel made indoor cycling cool in recent years, Peloton Cycle made it globally accessible. In 2012, CEO and co-founder John Foley launched Peloton, the first and only at-home exercise bike that integrates live-streaming and on-demand classes—to invite folks anywhere, anytime to join in on an immersive community ride. Whether you’re in your living room, hotel gym or Peloton’s broadcast studio in NYC, a high-energy instructor, like adidas athlete Robin Arzon, may call you out (by username!) to sweat with swagger. All you need to participate is either Peloton’s high-tech indoor bike complete with a 22-inch, sweat-proof touchscreen ($1,995) or the app ($12.99 per month for unlimited classes) and a stationary bike. With 20,000+ bikes sold as of January, 100,000+ riders, and 4,000+ on-demand videos, Foley is helping make fitness more experiential and convenient than ever.
Eran Segal, Ph.D.
Professor and researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science
With the scientific understanding of genetics and food sensitivities growing, personalization has become one of the hottest topics in conversations about the future of nutrition, dieting, and health. Eran Segal is one of the top researchers pioneering this area of study. Segal heads a lab in Israel with a team of computational biologists and experimental scientists and his work has been published in over 100 publications. His study of nutrition, genetics, the microbiome, and gene regulation is paving the way toward creating an algorithmic approach to personalized diet and health plans that could revolutionize the way we approach weight loss and medicine.
Founder of The Big Quiet and Medi Club
Israel’s meditation innovations are both large-scale and deep. The Big Quiet’s giant group meditations, in places like Central Park and concert halls, regularly draw upwards of 1,000 people to sit in silence together, from beginners to professionals. And for those practiced meditators, Medi Club has become a new kind of social circle and professional network, where connection is facilitated based on shared values related to mindfulness and wellness, instead of via rounds of shots at happy hour. By building a grassroots network of modern meditators “that are not master yogis or hippies or Buddhist monks,” Israel has helped make contemplative practice more accessible to legions of young people who will help shape the future of this space.
Meditation teacher and author
Los Angeles-based Pedram Shojai brings a fresh, sometimes irreverent voice to a world that’s known for being overly earnest. While he’s a former Taoist monk, a doctor of Oriental Medicine, and a Qi Gong master, his recent book, The Urban Monk, is focused on simplifying and modernizing meditation and other ancient practices to help more people banish stress and up their energy to live full, meaningful lives—via many platforms. He teaches online classes and offers a 12-week “Urban Monk Academy,” hosts multiple web series on wellness topics, created Well.org, and travels around the world lecturing different groups—from personal trainers to CEOs—on how they can embrace meditation and mindfulness.
Shauna Harrison, Ph.D.
Trainer and Under Armour athlete
It’s almost unheard of to find a trainer and fitness star with credentials as impressive as Shauna Harrison’s. She’s a graduate of Stanford, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins and has a Ph.D. in public health, and she’s used her smarts and energy to inspire a huge following that continues to grow and propel her towards bigger things. Harrison virtually trains her Instagram community with regular videos and training tips and her #SweatADay challenge now includes more than 90,000 posts and has turned into a community that motivates thousands to move. She also works with top brands, like Under Armour and TRX, to design innovative fitness programming, like the recently released TRX for Yoga.
Founder of 305 Fitness
A pint-sized dynamo with endless energy and smarts, Kurzban started teaching her own dance-based workout classes while she was a student at Brown University and built it into a wildly popular workout brand, 305 Fitness, while still in her 20s. The workout inspires people to exercise in an unparalleled way, because of its fun, free style and culture. With its passionate following of young women who break a sweat to live DJ music in a club-like atmosphere every week, 305 is poised to revolutionize dance workouts for Millennials in a way not seen since Zumba exploded onto the fitness scene in the early aughts. Based in New York City, Kurzban recently expanded to Washington DC and Boston, and will likely be bringing her DJs and dance moves to more cities soon.
Co-founder of Serene
After being declared the winning model on “Project Runway” season eight, Snow turned her attention away from modeling and acting to create SERENE, a wellness community with programming and events like rooftop yoga and meditation in New York City, Los Angeles, and London. She’s since become a Reiki practitioner and brought on two new co-founders, Tegan Bukowski and Jordan Daly. Together, they continue to expand SERENE’s work to bring health and consciousness into the mainstream in new ways, most recently with a wellness co-working concept in Montauk and an upcoming tech platform, SereneBook, launching this year.
Master trainer for Flywheel and Nike
Holly Rilinger’s dedicated community of Flywheel riders would follow her anywhere, and that star power led her to be cast on Bravo’s “Work Out New York” in 2015. She used the momentum to launch her own workout method, Lifted, which taps the Zeitgeist by combining meditation and intense interval training into one hour, allowing busy people to fit both self-reflection and sweat into their day in a new way. (Picture moving from sitting in stillness to burpees seamlessly.) It also brings meditation to the (potentially skeptical) gym crowd in an accessible way that may make them want to try it outside of class later.
Related: The Unique Release of an Emotionally Cathartic Workout
Sound therapy practitioner
Sound therapy has been picking up steam as the next big healing modality, and Sara Auster is one of the driving forces behind that movement. One of the most well-known, respected, and innovative sound therapy practitioners in the field, she hosts sound baths at yoga studios, meditation centers, and popular destinations like museums and concert halls. Her approach to sound healing is also holistic—she incorporates expertise in yoga, massage, and Reiki while sharing the transformative power of sound.
Natalia Petrzela, Ph.D.
IntenSati instructor and wellness scholar
Natalia Petrzela is known to mind-body workout enthusiasts as a dynamic top instructor of IntenSati, the popular fitness program that combines affirmations with interval training, martial arts, dance, and yoga, but she’s also a professor at The New School and is one of the only people in the field looking at the culture of health and wellness from a scholarly perspective. Petrzela writes about topics like wellness and class issues, yoga’s controversial connection to sex, the making of celebrity fitness instructors, and body image for publications like Well+Good and the Huffington Post and is currently working on a book, Sculpting an American Self, that will be the first to examine the historical roots and societal impacts of wellness culture in modern life.
Robin Berzin, M.D.
Founder of Parsley Health
Functional medicine—the practice of identifying and addressing root causes of illnesses rather than just treating symptoms—is a field dominated by men and known for hefty price tags, but Berzin is making it modern and accessible. Her practice, Parsley Health, delivers “high-tech holistic medicine” with members paying an affordable monthly rate for in-depth health assessments, follow-ups, community perks, and more, all in a tech-savvy, convenient way. Berzin’s approach is sure to serve as a model for specialty wellness practitioners in the future, as she makes addressing chronic health problems through lifestyle change possible for more people like never before.
Chef and author
In an era of celebrity chefs and Instagram food porn, Seamus Mullen promotes wellness more than his kitchen prowess. It stems from a health transformation he experienced after he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and used food and exercise to banish the symptoms. He published the cookbook Hero Food, became an avid cyclist who raises money and awareness for childhood hunger through Chefs Cycle, and now shares his healthy lifestyle with his Instagram followers daily, documenting everything from handstands to avocado salads. His successful advocacy for healthy living and cooking is bound to inspire other chefs to follow suit.
Vegan chef and founder of By Chloe
You might say Chloe Coscarelli single handedly changed vegan food’s reputation. Instead of precious plated peas that wouldn’t satisfy a mouse or crunchy hippie fare, she created a comfort food menu at her restaurant, By Chloe, that’s praised by college students, burger lovers, the kale salad set, and everyone in between. It’s wholesome, hearty food that appeals to the masses and is good for the planet. She’s set to soon boast six locations, in New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston, so a lot more people will be eating their veggies thanks to her work.
Founder and CEO of Beyond Meat
Brown’s Beyond Burger made major headlines this year as the first veggie burger that “bleeds” like its beefy counterpart (thanks to pulverized beets), but it’s just one of many products the plant-protein entrepreneur is making with the mission to shift the world’s reliance on animal protein in order to improve human health and positively impact climate change. Beyond Meat, which counts Bill Gates among its investors, also makes “chicken” strips and “meatballs” and is constantly innovating in order to appeal to consumer tastes while proving that the food system need not be reliant on environmentally and economically unsustainable products that pose risks to human health.
Founder of ConBody
Coss Marte, a former drug kingpin, created his fitness method after losing 70 pounds working out in his jail cell. When he launched the program at a workout studio in New York City, ConBody quickly became a popular destination where people from all walks of life get in shape and gain confidence. Now, Marte’s using that success to effect social change—by hiring others with criminal backgrounds who get few other opportunities, providing trainings for them, and also teaching his classes to inmates at Riker’s Island (a jail complex) while inspiring them with this story and offering advice on how they can get back on their feet after serving their time.
Related: The Healing Potential of Yoga in Prisons
John Berardi, Ph.D., and Phil Caravaggio
Co-founders of Precision Nutrition
Berardi and Caravaggio created a nutrition coaching program that goes far beyond meal-planning assistance, and has deep influence on clients and health professionals alike. Positions in their Precision Nutrition coaching programs become available twice a year (they typically sell out within hours), and those who are accepted get a year of expert coaching, daily nutrition practices and training plans, guaranteed results, and the motivating opportunity to win prize money. Fitness pros can sign up for a program to add nutrition credentials to their resume in order to better serve their clients, too.
Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and creator of A.C.C.E.S.S.
At a time when the prevailing mentality in the fitness world is harder-longer-faster, Rebecca Kennedy has created a genre-defying class that emphasizes the importance of active recovery as part of a well-rounded workout program. A.C.C.E.S.S. (Athletes Connection to Core, Endurance, Strength, and Stretch) helps fitness buffs work on mobility and flexibility by incorporating yoga, core conditioning, and dynamic stretching into a session they can fit in on a rest day, and Kennedy—who is also a star Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and Nike master trainer— has plans to expand it over the next year.
Zen Honeycutt and Miranda Becker
Director of Moms Across America and Care2 Member Activism Coordinator
In a peaceful protest, Zen Honeycutt and Miranda Becker led a large coalition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., this May to deliver over half a million signed petitions demanding the ban of the herbicide glyphosate in America. While the EPA and the World Health Organization both claim that glyphosate is not likely to be a carcinogen, the American Cancer Society disagrees—and so does some science. Honeycutt and Becker, who have teamed up their communities to raise awareness of this toxin, presented mounting evidence to the White House that the contaminant in wine, beer, tap water, breast milk, cotton products, cereal and breakfast foods may be causing cancer and even autism (watch Honeycutt’s video interview with an MIT scientist to learn more). “The EPA must revoke the license of glyphosate now and protect the people, not the profits of the chemical companies,” said Honeycutt, who urges people to call the EPA (703-308-8187) to tell them to “stop poisoning us.”
Drew Ramsey, M.D.
Psychiatry professor at Columbia University and brain health expert
“Dr. Kale” would be an appropriate nickname for Drew Ramsey, who is known for his love of the leafy green: he co-created National Kale Day and co-authored the 50 Shades of Kale cookbook, after all. But kale advocacy is just one of the ways he’s bringing cutting-edge scientific research to the masses to raise awareness about how food and nutrition affect brain health, an oft-ignored aspect of well-being. His new book, Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health, brings that message home.
Celebrity chef and food policy advocate
As the owner of award winning restaurants like Craft and Colicchio & Sons, a TV personality on “Top Chef,” and the author of multiple cookbooks, Colicchio has incredible influence, which he’s using to promote better food policies and make the case that all chefs have a responsibility to do the same. He co-founded Food Policy Action to hold legislators accountable for votes that affect farming, the food system, and access to nutritious foods, and has been a steady, smart, voice in the ongoing fight over GMO labeling. Colicchio is leading the charge for chefs to regularly stand up for the right to know what’s in the food they cook and serve.
Kristin Groos Richmond and Kristen Saenz Tobey
Co-founders of Revolution Foods
The “founding moms” of Oakland, California-based Revolution Foods started their company with a mission to provide children and families access to healthy, affordable meals—and their efforts are paying off. They currently work with over 1,500 schools and outside school programs, and each week they serve over one and a half million freshly prepared, healthy meals to students across the country. Revolution Foods’ lunch boxes and snacks are now also available in select regions of major retail stores, such as Safeway and Walmart, and 1% of proceeds go toward providing schools with fresh meals.
Related: See Sonia Jones’ New Children’s Book on the Fun and Power of Yoga
Founder and CEO of PlateJoy
Popular meal-kit delivery services, like Plated and Blue Apron, might have made dining-in more convenient and affordable, but Christina Bognet’s four-year-old food app, PlateJoy, brings a lot more nutrition to the table. The MIT-grad used her neuroscience degree to develop an algorithm to turn individuals’ health and taste needs into ultra-personalized weekly menus and recipes. The program, which costs $10 a month and includes an extensive questionnaire, is very effective: Bognet herself lost 50 pounds using her app. A new partnership with online grocer Instacart completes the package with same-day food delivery so the food you need to put your meal plan into action literally appears at your doorstep.
Founder of Dock to Dish
Creating a more sustainable seafood supply chain is a major food system issue of the moment, with implications for climate change, human health, and many additional global issues. Dock to Dish started as a collective of Montauk fisherman sourcing and delivering local seafood to community members and restaurants in a traceable way, and it now has outposts in Los Angeles and Vancouver and is continuing to expand. Barrett has been at the forefront of starting conversations and creating solutions in the sustainable seafood realm, such as encouraging a return to a know-your-fisherman culture.
Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest
Founders of Epic
Collins and Forrest turned an idea for quality meat-based protein bars into one of the fastest growing snack brands in the country, and their Epic product line now includes jerky bites, bone broth, and animal cooking oils. All are produced with guiding principles and practices that support optimal health benefits for their customers and responsible ranching practices that are better for animals and the environment. That includes helping farmers transition to pasture-based regenerative ranching methods that can help restore grasslands and soil and utilizing whole animals to reduce waste.
Founder of Trash is for Tossers and The Simply Co.
Photos of the trash Lauren Singer produces each year are regularly posted in major media outlets. Why? It fits in a mason jar. The environmental activist started a blog to document her zero-waste lifestyle and has now become an influential advocate and role model for people everywhere trying to minimize their environmental footprints. She also created The Simply Co. a non-toxic, sustainable laundry detergent, to help others follow her lead.
This feature includes contributions from Shira Atkins and Cristina Goyanes.