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Adelle Davis's best-known writings
consist of four major works,

all in paperback, all now out of print but available online for a few dollars plus shipping (see Used & Out of Print Section, and others):

  1. Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit (c 1954, 1966, 1970, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich; New American Library; Signet Books; Penguin Group; others??) is, to make a huge understatement, the most popular. It is a compendium of all the vitamins and mineral elements that had been researched in Adelle's lifetime, one or a few chapters on each one, taken from her years of clinical counselling and intensive reading of the scientific experiments in biochemistry of nutrition. This book is the final form of a work that she wrote and kept re-writing throughout her academic and professional careers under other titles, including Optimum Health (1935, "Entered Stationers' Hall, London, England, 1935. All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States of America.") and Vitality Through Planned Nutrition (1942, Macmillan). (See below.)

    The book explains in detail how these nutrients work in the body, the research that has been done on them, what happens when there is a deficiency in a nutrient, how much of the nutrient is needed in each instance (and why), and what foods and supplements contain that nutrient. One gets a clear understanding of why it is important, in each case, to supplement through the use of healthful foods and occasionally through pills. Further, since she educates you thoroughly in the research behind each nutrient, one learns how to adjust one's diet wisely, using measurement and quantification based on science.

  2. Let's Get Well (c 1965, 1972, as above), is organized around the major health afflications (a complementary volume to Let's Eat Right, which is arranged by type of nutrient and its effects). Let's Get Well is super-abundantly footnoted to a huge bibliography of research. Literally every one of her statements is directly referenced, not just once but usually to three or four different scientific studies.

  3. Let's Have Healthy Children, ( 1951, 1959, 1971, 1972, 1982, as above) as the title says. Focuses on research and her theories of how to gain optimum health, as they pertain to diet during pregnancy, and raising a young family. Hard to find now. Have lost my hardback copy.

  4. Let's Cook It Right (c 1947, 1970, 1981, as above) Adelle Davis believed that, above all else, food should be delicious. This thick-volume cookbook (573 pages) is full of ways to prepare fresh foods of all kinds in the most minimally-impacted, health-preserving manner. Just one example: this book pioneered the steaming of vegetables using vapor-tight lids to prevent destruction of vitamins by enzymes. It's full of many scientifically-proven ways to prepare foods without destroying the nutrients.

    Included are many ways to prepare meats healthfully, including hard-to-find recipes for the organ meats, which are supremely important to health. However, with what we know today about treatment of animals used for human food, one might wish to locate an organic source of meat, either online (grass-fed is best), or locally in your area. We will add links to sources of organic meats to this website as time allows. Meanwhile, there's always Google!

    She also includes ingredients that many of us today have already eliminated from our diets. When the book was written, in 1947, one could not simply eliminate, say, bacon, or other high-nitrate foods from a cookbook, and have it still be considered sane. Adjust ingredients per your own health decisions.

    The chapter on desserts focuses on ways to prepare fruit desserts without sugar, then goes on to puddings and custards with minimal sugar. Her reading of the scientific research showed that, "when the diet is adequate" (a phrase she often uses, meaning "when one gets enough of all the known nutrients"), cholesterol need not be feared, so she uses eggs and full-cream dairy products in many of her desserts.

Earlier Books

Adelle wrote and re-worked her major opus three times during her life, publishing it under three successive titles, Optimum Health (London, Stationer's Hall, 1935), Vitality Through Planned Nutrition (1942), and Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit (1954). Adelle organizes her research into a handy layman's compendium of all that is known about every major scientifically-researched nutrient, beginning with the most important and first-named vitamin, Vitamin A, and continuing nutrient per nutrient, one per chapter, in approximately alphabetical order.

Optimum Health, 1935

Stationers' Hall, London, England, is the earliest Adelle Davis work I have so far located. Available at Barnes and Noble "Out of Print" section. (Hurry, it gets more and more expensive as the copies are bought up.) It consists of 29 chapters in four parts.

Some quotes:


"A few foods not in general usage have been recommended in this book. This may cause criticism by those who wrongly consider these foods to be medicines. Our forefathers ate the embryo of grains [i.e., wheat germ, etc.] in much greater quantities than have been recommended here. A group of people living in Labrador, who are remarkably free from illnesses common to us, use large quantities of fish-liver oil poured over their food or soaked into bread, as a youngster might eat gravy. Experimental animals which must be kept healthy are given fish-liver oil and yeast as a routine procedure. The health of these animals, even in the name of science, is certainly no more important than the health of your family.

"Just as it is difficult to translate works from one language into another and always retain the exact shading of meaning and the niceties of the original language, so is it difficult to 'translate' scientific findings into popular terms. However, the tremendous need of the public for a greater practical knowledge of nutrition justifies, I believe, the handling of the subject in the manner used in this book." [HEAR! HEAR!]

June 1935
1830 Gower Street, Los Angeles, California

And the sections:

Part I: The Joy of Optimum Health

1. The Joy of Optimum Health ...a keen-minded but puzzled Dutch physician fed polished rice to fowls and watched them become paralyzed, go into convulsions, and die, just as he had watched hundreds of human beings die similar deaths. Thus it was shown for the first time that all diseases were not due to bacteria alone, but that some were due to a lack. This lack, minute in quantity, tremendous in quality, lay in the diet. p. 6.

2. Building Resistance Subtle deficiencies, that is, where almost but not quite enough vitamin A is supplied in the diet, are of tremendous importance to us. These deficiencies, which lead to minor illnesses, are of such common occurrence that few of us escape them. p. 11.

3. Vitamin-A Requirements: People are always asking me, "How long should I take fish-liver oil?" My answer always has been and probably always will be, "Just as long as you are interested in your health."p. 28

4. Our Changing Diet: Our grandparents ate smaller amounts of sweets than we do. The consumption of sugar alone has increased almost one hundred pounds per person per year in the last hundred years. Sweets take away the appetite for the good foods which our bodies need. p. 31.

5. The Need of Healthy Nerves The writer of an article published in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association stated that a large amount of the heart disease seen today in America was undoubtedly due to the widespread lack of vitamin B. p. 48

6. Sterility, Pregnancy, and Lactation The old belief that a pregnant woman should eat for two is not true with respect to the quantity of food she must eat, for she need not increase the amount of food except during the last two months, and then only slightly. However, she must eat for two with respect to minerals and vitamins. Her daily diet during this time should include:
1 quart of skim milk
16 oz. of orange, grapefuit, or 
	tomato juice
1 egg
1/2 cup of wheat germ
2 but preferably 3 fish-liver-oil
1 serving of cottage cheese
3 or more servings of colored
2 or 3 servings of fresh fruit, 
	emphasizing citrous fruit
1 serving of meat or fish with
	liver once weekly
~~~~~~~ End of direct quotation ~~~~~~

This recipe shows a full yet reasonably trim diet, with good proportions of protein and fruits and vegetables. Here we have, in 1935, before her Masters Degree was obtained, the nucleus of Adelle's belief in a truly balanced diet gained from natural foods that traditionally have been eaten by man for thousands of years, giving ample amounts of several types of protein and nutrients.

Optimum Health contains the foundation of what eventually became Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit: chapter-by-chapter description of the vitamins in near-alphabetical order; each chapter describing the results of the lack of the vitamin, the results of the optimum intake of the vitamin, and then the best natural sources of the vitamin. But this book has something that Let's Eat Right does not: a very large proportion of the book is devoted to weight reduction. It begins with,

You must learn the truth of this statement: the more you eat, the more you want to eat; the less you eat, the less you care to eat.

And she goes on to tell you how to get there.

Vitality Through Planned Nutrition, 1942

Macmillan, New York The most intriguing of her earlier works. Vitality was written four years after she had received her Masters Degree, and was brimming over with confidence in the science, and enthusiasm for the practice, of nutritional counselling.

Her statements are the boldest of those in any of her books, and present some of the most impressive nutritional observations, which seem to have been toned down ("edited out" by others?) in Let's Eat Right....

One example:

"From a practical point of view, it is correct to say that

it is impossible to obtain enough vitamin A to be harmful [NOTE: Adelle means Vitamin A from fish-liver oil, the only kind that can properly be termed "vitamin A" --- KS].

In an experiment a group of babies were fed 166,666 units of the vitamin daily for five months; not only could no harmful effects be observed but the infants seemed far more healthy than babies receiving smaller amounts. Rats have been given 500,000 units daily throughout their life span, and no toxicity resulted.

When still larger quantities are given animals, illness does sometimes result. Similarly, Arctic explorers have become ill after eating polar-bear liver, found to contain as much as several million units of vitamin A per serving."

[NOTE: for the medical research on exactly how much natural vitamin A is safe, see our Vitamin A page.]

Vitality is clearly a re-writing, much improved, much more substantial, of Optimum Health. And just as clearly, Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit is a further re-writing of this core of her effort to motivate people to eat according to the best findings of scientific research. All three books are formed on the same core, the same discussion of the vitamins in roughly alphabetical order, with amazing findings of science, with clear explanations of how the body works, and that sure-fire motivation that makes you want to change your diet right now.

You Can Stay Well, 1939

London, England
You Can Stay Well was released in England in 1939, the year after she had received her Master's Degree in Biochemistry at the University of Southern California. It is written in a totally different mode: like that of a radio or TV show. Much less entertaining to my mind than the substantial science presented objectively in her core works.

In a website now lost, it was described as "Davis' classic on the preservation of health through nutrition and diet. With Table of Food Factors, Index." It is available online at Barnes & Noble, starting at several dollars, up to almost $400 for a quality copy.

It is written almost completely as dialogue, from the first person, with every character telling the others some facts about nutrition. Approaching it as a nutritional instruction, it falls short of her other books. The nutritional information is of interest to the professional, but too scattered to form a complete picture in the mind of the lay reader. But as a window on her life, it is quite rewarding. Especially toward the end of the book, anyone interested in Adelle's life and training will find that she has anticipated your curiosity, and is taking you along with her through numerous encounters with her colleagues:

A quote:

"I remembered Dr. Norris whose office had been next to mine in the Medical Center Building and who always brought me the articles on nutrition in the medical journals, saying, "You read this and tell me what it's about." They had been technical articles one had to study to make heads or tails of, and while he had taught at Harvard Medical and could read such articles more easily than most, he had hundreds of demands on his time. When he did have a moment to read, he naturally wanted to relax rather than to concentrate on a subject which did not especially interest him.... Time and again when I had commented on excellent articles which could have been of great help to the patient, I found the doctors had failed to read them. Of course many physicians did read a great deal on the subject, but such men seemed relatively few." p. 241

Miscellaneous, Little-Known Publications

I've never seen these titles, until now, looking at Barnes and's ever-widening list of her books (she's getting popular again!). Do these limited titles represent attempts to change her statements, to "soften the blow" and put the "Food Industry" into a better light? I'm tempted to buy them just to see what was going on.
  • You Can Get Well (June 1975, Publisher: Benedict Lust)
  • Let's Stay Healthy: A Guide to Lifelong Nutrition authored by Ann Gildroy and Adelle Davis; 1981, Harcourt; 1982, Penguin Group USA)
  • Along the Backroads of Europe (pamphlet by Adelle Davis, illustrated by Elizabeth Kende, no date or info available)
  • Exploring Inner Space (under Adelle's pseudonym, Jane Dunlap, Harcourt Brace, 1961) In the late 1950's and early '60's, the newly-discovered psychoactive compound now called "LSD" was being investigated by the government through universities. It had not yet become a popular street drug. Adelle was a lifelong proponent of sound psychological health practices, and never condoned the use of LSD or any other mind-altering drugs for entertainment purposes. gives an exerpt:

    "People naturally want to know why I wished to take LSD. The fact that related substances were used for religions purposes interested me profoundly, and I had heard that LSD experiences were often deeply spiritual. For many years it has seemed to me that, before any of us can have truly fulfilling lives, we must develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Intellectual and physical development are tremendously stressed in our culture, perhaps overstressed. Emotional and spiritual development, I feel, are both neglected and underestimated. Through several years of painful but glorious psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, I have done considerable maturing emotionally and laid the foundation for further emotional growth. Intellectually I could have done better but also worse . . . When it came to spiritual attainment, my development was so pitifully inadequate that I sometimes felt consumed with an empty yearning."

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NEWS ITEM: The Adelle Davis Foundation will be re-publishing Adelle's books in the not-too-distant future. We are soooo happy! A whole generation of people has not heard of her work, due to the demise of the Health Food Movement in the early 1970's.

Adelle's advice for people taking radiation treatments


Acid: a substance or chemical that has a high number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; capable of combining with a base to produce a salt

ALERT: abbreviation for Adelle's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit

Alkaline: also called a base; a substance or chemical that has a low number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; it is capable of combining with an acid to produce a salt

Amino Acids: An amphoteric organic amino acid containing the amino group NH2: esp: any of the alpha-amino acids that are the chief components of proteins and are synthesized by living cells or are obtained as essential components of the diet. They are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids contain nitrogen, unlike other foods. There are 22 kinds of amino acids. Thousands of kinds of proteins can be made from these 22 amino acids. (See "Essential Amino Acids" below.)

Atom: the basic unit of matter, generally thought to be composed of three kinds of smaller particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons), the number of the particles in the atom determining the observable properties that that substance has; generally, the nucleus of the atom is made of protons and neutrons, while the much smaller electrons orbit around the nucleus, one electron for each proton, in an arrangement of spherical shells, or so it has been conceived in the past; there are only about 100 different kinds of atoms in the universe, numbering from 1 (which is hydrogen, having one proton and one electron) to Lawrencium (having 103 protons and electrons) (See "Elements" below.)

Beriberi: a disease caused by B-vitamin deficiencies, marked by inflammatory or degenerative changes of the nerves, digestive system, and heart caused largely by a lack of, or inability to assimilate, the B vitamin thiamine, as well as other B vitamins

Bioflavonoids: Ketone derivatives that occur in many parts of primroses and other plants, and which enhance the activity of Vitamin C in humans; sometimes used as dyestuffs

Calorie: 1. One of two recognized units of heat. The large or great calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water 1 degree Centigrade. The small calorie is the amount of heat required to raise one gram of water 1 degree Centigrade. 2. Physiol. The large calorie, a measure of the energy value of foods or the heat output of organisms./ An amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie.

Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and cellulose; compounds containing carbon combined with hydrogen and oxygen, which break apart to release quick energy

Chemical: a substance derived by chemical processes, or used to create something through chemical processes; a chemical is usually composed of just one kind of molecule, or a specific blend of several kinds of molecules in specific proportions

Complete Protein: A protein food that contains all 8 essential amino acids, and thus is capable of supporting life if no other protein source is consumed.

Compound: a mixture of chemicals; also called a "chemical compound"

Element: a substance composed of just one kind of atom; look up "element" in your dictionary for a list of them; they can be gaseous, liquid or solid; there are 102 different kinds of elements, at last count.

Emulsified: when a substance has been blended into another substance in an emulsion

Emulsion: a combination of two liquids that normally will not mix, accomplished by breaking up one liquid into extremely tiny particles that remain suspended in the other liquid; most commonly, a combination of an oil or fat in a water-based liquid; oil-based vitamins are often treated this way in hopes they will be better absorbed in the digestive tract

Essential Amino Acids: Of the 22 amino acids, all but 8 can be manufactured in the body. These 8 amino acids must be obtained from foods; thus they are termed "essential." They are tryptophane, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Two more are sometimes essential to children: histidine and arginine. The proteins of beans (legumes) and grains have complementary essential amino acids, and when the two foods are eaten together, the resulting protein provides all 8 essential amino acids.

Essential Fatty Acids ("EFA's"): Fatty acids that the body cannot produce, and which are extremely important for myriad health processes. There are two types of EFA's: Omega-3 and Omega-6. They cannot be interchanged in the body. Omega-3's come largely from the green parts of plants (especially grass eaten by ruminants) but including some seeds, and the sea plankton eaten by fish. Omega-6's come from many seeds of plants and animals that eat them. Today, with most of our food animals being fed corn and other grains, Americans are extremely high in Omega-6's and deficient in Omega-3's, which can cause major health disorders. Many, many nutritionists are recommending supplementing the diet with Omega-3 EFA's as a preventative measure for myriad diseases. This was research that was just beginning to come to the public's attention in the 1980's; before that time, Adelle Davis was seeing the very earliest research when she commented on the linoleic, linolenic, and arachnidonic EFA's.

Fatty Acids: Any of numerous saturated aliphatic monocarboxylic acids, including many that occur naturally, usually in the form of esters in fats, waxes, and essential oils; any of the saturated or unsaturated monocarboxylic acids (as palmitic acid) usually with an even number of carbon atoms that occur naturally in the form of glycerides in fats and fatty oils

Gram: Unit of measurement of weight; about 454 grams ("g") equal one pound. About 28 grams equal one ounce. In measuring vitamins, 1/1000th of a gram is a milligram, written "mg"

Iodide: any of several compounds containing iodine, artifically added to salt to prevent goiter, an enlarging of the thyroid gland of the throat due to deficiency of iodine; Adelle believed strongly in using real sea salt, or iodized salt

Iodine: chemical element number 53, using the symbol "I"; needed by the thyroid glands to produce the hormone thyroxin, which profoundly regulates growth and metabolism; certain soils that were once under the ocean (along the Atlantic Coast, and parts of Kansas, South Dakota, Utah, western Texas and New Mexico) have enough iodine to produce foods of adequate iodine content --- elsewhere, the only reliable sources are sea foods including ocean fish including shellfish, kelp of all kinds, and real sea salt (ALERT p. 181)

I.u.: International Units, a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Mg: Milligram, one one-thousandth of a gram

Mineral: homogeneous substance composed of molecules made of a combination of several elements, usually in solid and/or rock form, often as crystals, generally found in the ground and sea water (which contains all of the elements on Earth); when nutritionists speak of "minerals" they usually mean elements, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, many others; this website will use the term "mineral elements" for such chemicals

Nutrient: a general term for any substance in foods, or added to foods, that promotes health in describable ways

Organic: Adelle writes, "grown on humus-rich soil without the addition of artificial fertilizers" and in her day, the term "organic" meant food grown to be vibrantly health-promoting, full of life, close to nature, and all the indefineables we all know mean naturally grown on rich soil, managed by good farmers who keep down pests through their expertise and skills; in chemistry, the term "organic" simply means molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which all life is largely composed of; today, states and countries define the term differently, but it usually means food that does not have added artificial chemicals of any kind; such a term says little or nothing about the vibrancy of life in the food

Pellagra: a disease caused by a multiple B-vitamin deficiency, marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and central nervous system symptoms, and associated with a diet deficient in niacin, protein and other B vitamins (See "Beriberi" above.)

Protein: Unlike other living molecules, proteins contain nitrogen. They are made from "Amino Acids" (q.v.); there are thousands of kinds of proteins. The body is built largely of proteins. Therefore, meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs are excellent sources of protein.

Retinol: the original "vitamin A," which is the unadulterated compound found in animal fats, especially liver

Salt: the word itself is cognate to the Greek hals, meaning both "salt" and "sea"; sodium chloride, or "table salt", is just one type of salt, which generally means a residue left over from the evaporation of a large amount of water.

Sea salt: as a food labelling term, this means any kind of salt derived from the sea, even pure sodium chloride; usually this product has added iodide to protect against goiter, and some other chemical to keep it from attracting moisture. The term was popularized during the Health Food Movement when people made real sea salt by evaporating sea water and keeping all the crystals and compounds that were formed; the salts thus obtained are composed of all the numerous mineral elements on Earth, in proportions needed by the body (mineral elements occur in the blood in almost the identical proportions in which they occur in sea water). Ironically, there is more iodine in real sea salt than in the commercial product, and in its natural form. Yet the FDA has decreed that real sea salt must be labelled with the repelling words: "Does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient." Currently we have not found any way to determine from the label whether anything called "sea salt" contains the numerous elements of the ocean, or only sodium chloride. Real sea salt (we make our own) is gray and stays moist due to its power to attract water from the air. Any salt that does not get wet has an added chemical, not required to be identified on the label.

Synergistic: When compound (or muscle) enhances the effectiveness of another compound (or muscle); compounds that work together in the body, an absence of one can cause inefficiency of the others; an oversupply of one or more synergistic compounds can cause a deficiency in the others; pertains especially to the B vitamins

Unit: International Unit, or iu: a unit of measurement for oil-based vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E. One milligram (mg) of vitamin A equates to 4,000 to 6,000 international units (i.u.)

Vitamin: literally means simply "life-giving"; a man-made chemical or naturally-occurring compound derived from foods, plants, or animals, that is essential to human health

Vitamin A: Fat-soluble vitamin obtained largely from animal sources (IF the animal is allowed to eat green plants, not grains, a rarity in the US today); the absence of vitamin A results in hardening (keratinizing) of the mucous membranes

Vitamin B: Water-soluble vitamin complex found especially in the germs of seeds, in yeasts, liver, and vegetables that have varied metabolic functions and include coenzymes and growth factors; the B vitamins work synergistically, and a deficiency of one or some may bring about deficiencies in others

Vitamin C: Water-soluble vitamin found largely in fruits and leafy vegetables, or made synthetically; absence of vitamin C causes scurvy, a breakdown of the cell walls of the body's cells; vitamin C detoxifies toxins in the body, and is used in food preparation to prevent destruction by oxygen

Vitamin D: Fat-soluble vitamins chemically related to steroids, essential for normal bone and tooth structure, and found esp. in fish-liver oils, egg yolk (from naturally-raised chickens), and milk (from grass-fed cows), or produced by activation (as by ultraviolet irradiation) of sterols: as vitamin D2, an alcohol usually prepared by irradiation of ergosterol and used as a dietary supplement in nutrition and medicinally in the control of rickets and related disorders, called also calciferol, or vitamin D3, an alcohol that is the predominating form of vitamin D in most fish-liver oils and is formed in the skin on exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays

Vitamin E: Fat-soluble vitamins that are chemically tocopherols, are essential in vertebrates for fertility, preventing muscle degeneration and vascular abnormalities; found especially in leaves and in seed germ oils; used chiefly in animal feeds and as antioxidants

Vitamin G: Riboflavin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin H: Biotin, one of the B vitamins

Vitamin K: Two fat-soluble vitamins essential for blood clotting because they promote the production of prothrombin; can be produced in the intestine when yogurt is consumed

Vitamin P: Bioflavonoids; enhance the activity of vitamin C

Water-Miscible: a vitamin or other substance, normally not able to mix with water, that is altered to be able to be mixed into water without separating out; water-miscible vitamin A is ten times more toxic than oil-based vitamin A

Wheat Germ: Every seed has an embryo plant inside it called the "germ." It is the part that grows to become the new plant. This embryo is full of vitamins and protein. Since growing cells need B vitamins, the germ is rich in B vitamins. The germ is ground off and sold separately (sometimes it is given away) when wheat and rice are milled. The rest of the wheat and rice grain is mostly pure starch, without many B vitamins.

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