When I first learned I had to remove gluten from my diet due to celiac disease, I was overwhelmed by the changes I had to implement in my diet, and in my lifestyle. The rewards were great though, as my health markedly improved with each passing month of living gluten free (“GF”). Symptoms I hadn’t even recognized as symptoms – things like recurring sinus infections, fatigue and anemia – cleared up and I began to finally feel like myself again after 10 long years of sub-optimal health.
My gastrointestinal symptoms never quite cleared up though. Removing gluten from my diet meant that I was eating even more of the naturally gluten-free foods I had enjoyed before my diagnosis. By this I mean fruits and vegetables, and lots and lots of cheese, yogurt and ice cream. The dairy items were my treats, filling in the gluten-free flavor gaps I was experiencing early in my GF journey without many of my favorite baked goods in my life. To my dismay, I soon learned that I had also become lactose intolerant, so all those well-loved treats had to go as well.
Turns out, most adults are actually lactose intolerant, just like me – on average, 60% of us are. Throw in celiac disease on top of that and I didn’t stand much of a chance of being one of those “lucky” folks whose bodies continued to produce enough of the lactase enzyme necessary to digest lactose. Knowing this now, I always counsel fellow celiacs to try going dairy-free (“DF”) if they still aren’t feeling all the way better off of gluten. Removing this secondary dietary culprit often does the trick. (See my article summarizing the different reasons for eliminating dairy from your diet: Milk Protein Allergy? Lactose Intolerance? Casein-Free? Making Sense of Milk.).
That’s where blogger Alisa Marie Fleming’s book comes in. Go Dairy Free is THE handbook for anyone who finds that they must remove dairy from their diet due to lactose intolerance, milk allergy, casein sensitivity, ethical preference or other health reason. I so wish I’d had this book when I made my transition to dairy-free ten years ago! Pouring over this book, I not only found many of my own school-of-hard-knocks learnings, homemade substitutions and favorite dairy-free ingredients, but also so many more!
Alisa has made it her mission in this book to leave no dairy carton unturned, not bovine topic off the table; her book is perhaps most remarkable in this comprehensiveness. Over half of the book is dedicated to summarizing the latest research on everything from dairy’s role in America’s obesity problem (did you know that America’s cheese consumption increased 420% … from 7.7lbs./year to 325lbs/year between 1950 and 2006?!), to the long list of health problems that can be mitigated or eliminated entirely just by removing diary from our diets. Among these diseases and symptoms are ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, acne, headaches and migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and even high cholesterol!
I love Alisa’s cheerful can-do attitude and writing style in her book, as well. You can just tell she’s somebody you’d like to have over to dinner … repeatedly! Witty, charming and constantly interesting, her book is founded on the same philosophy so many of us share on living gluten free: if simply eliminating a type of food from our diets can make us feel better, why wouldn’t we do it? It’s like putting leaded gasoline into an unleaded gas tank – the energy you put in had better agree with the engine, or there will be a lot more trouble than gas!
Tried and True Tips & Tasty Tid-Bits
Alisa also covers ingredient and recipe tips she’s taught herself through the years, and provides a great map for how to navigate living dairy free in our dairy-filled society. One of my favorite tips for eating out gluten free has worked equally well for Alisa living dairy free – go ethnic! Thai, sushi, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Afghani, … these menus are often downright easy to order from, whether living gluten free, dairy free, or both!
Her recipes, while not all GF, for the most part can be modified to suit a gluten-free diet as well. She uses a lot of seeds, pseudo-cereals and alternative grains, and is more of a whole food eater herself, so we could all stand to learn from her example. Her recipe index also helps the reader to quickly identify which recipes will suit a gluten-free diet, making it easier to hop right to a recipe that will work for your family.
To me, some of her most intriguing recipes are for dairy-free ingredients I could imagine using in my gluten-free recipes – such things as tofu “Ricotta” cheese (think lasagna, people!), tofu “Feta” cheese (I’m already craving stuffed grapeleaves!), and sweets like homemade dairy-free white chocolate (dreaming of white chocolate chip-Macadamia nut cookies … yum!).
This is one of those tomes (yes, I said tome – you should see how small her font is – this book could easily be 500 pages in normal type-face!) that you will keep in your kitchen forever, as your go-to, going dairy free how-to guide for nearly any aspect of living dairy free.
As I said in the beginning of this review, I wish I’d had the benefit of Alisa’s learnings before I had to invent my own dairy-free wheel, but there is still plenty I have to learn from this comprehensive resource. Thank you, Alisa, for sharing all your secrets with the rest of us!
Most highly recommended!