Adelle Davis: A Matriarch of Modern Nutrition
The late Adelle Davis, who passed away in 1974, was my first mentor in nutrition. She’s known as the most famous — and controversial — nutritionist in the early to mid-20th century.
Her first publication was a 1932 promotional pamphlet for milk. Between 1935 and 1965, she wrote several books, four of which were written for the public: “Let’s Cook It Right,” “Let’s Have Healthy Children,” “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit,” and “Let’s Get Well.” Some 10 million copies of these four books were sold during her lifetime.
I purchased all of her books and read them in the ‘70s. As my first nutrition mentor, she was my inspiration to adopt a healthy diet. Of course, my concept evolved quite dramatically over time, from fasting and low-carb eating to my current adoption of Ray Peat’s Bioenergetic principles that includes loads of ripe fruit and avoidance of all fasting.
Was she right about everything? No, but she was correct about many of the foundational nutrition basics, and was far ahead of her time on many issues. The 50-year-old Associated Press interview above gives you a taste of her down-to-earth, commonsense approach.
Davis Seeded the Whole Food Movement
Davis basically seeded the modern health food movement, the whole food movement in particular. That was her key advice. Just eat real, whole foods, nothing processed or refined. Davis grew up on a farm, studied home economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and later got a degree in dietetics from the University of California at Berkeley.
After that, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a hospital dietician. She told AP she became “very disillusioned” by this work experience. She’d entered the field thinking she would “make people healthy with good nutrition,” but instead, they were feeding patients “diets that were just horrible.”
She understood that whole foods are the key to good health — whole grains, whole milk, eggs, meats and organ meats, fruits and vegetables. Today, however, we’ve come to realize that grains and certain vegetables can be highly problematic for many, even when cooked from scratch, due to their naturally-high content of linoleic acid (LA) and/or anti-nutrients, and the fact that undigestible fermentable carbs promote endotoxin production.
Granted, back then grains weren’t as loaded with gut-destroying chemicals like glyphosate, and they weren’t genetically modified. The first GMOs didn’t emerge until the 1990s.1 Genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant grains are loaded with glyphosate, and most processed foods are now made with GMOs.
That said, her overall message is as correct now as it was then. For good health, you need REAL food, and to keep virtually all processed foods out of your diet. The rest largely comes down to individual sensitivities and circumstances. “Just [eat] natural foods … Nothing refined. It’s that simple,” she told AP.
‘Appalling Amount of Sickness’
In the interview, Davis laments about the “appalling amount of sickness in America” — and that was in 1974, a time when the obesity rate was a mere 6.2%,2 when only 25% were considered overweight, the diabetes rate among people under 45 was in the single digits, and 87.1% of Americans self-reported being in good to excellent health!3
Today, the obesity rate is at 41.9%4 and another 30.7% are overweight;5 11.3% across age groups have Type 2 diabetes,6 and 45% of Americans have at least one chronic disease.7 One wonders what she’d have to say about the state of public health today!
A key part of her message was that refined foods lack essential vitamins and minerals. She was among the first to emphasize the importance of trace minerals for good health, and she warned about the destruction of soils. “If these minerals are not in the soil, they won’t be in the plants grown in the soil,” she said.
Davis also stressed the importance of B vitamins, which she encouraged people to get from whole foods. She was also among the first to recognize the hazards of refined sugar and hydrogenated fats (i.e., seed oils or vegetable oils).
Davis believed “a great deal” of the health problems of her day, including mental health problems, were related to refined foods — the early versions of today’s processed and ultraprocessed foods — as nutrients like vitamins, minerals and healthy fats are removed during the processing, and then sugars and hydrogenated trans fats are added in.
Article from LewRockwell
LewRockwell.com is a libertarian website that publishes articles, essays, and blog posts advocating for minimal government, free markets, and individual liberty. The site was founded by Lew Rockwell, an American libertarian political commentator, activist, and former congressional staffer. The website often features content that is critical of mainstream politics, state intervention, and foreign policy, among other topics. It is a platform frequently used to disseminate Austrian economics, a school of economic thought that is popular among some libertarians.