An estimated 25% of Americans eat a gluten-free diet, including people with wheat allergies, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder that causes a person’s immune system to attack their small intestine if they ingest gluten, a group of common proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. Although celiac disease is estimated to affect one in 100 people, some experts say that about 80% of cases remain undiagnosed. (These are the most common medical ailments in America.)
Gluten-free diets are becoming more common, even in people without celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Though less serious, gluten sensitivity can cause gastrointestinal issues, rashes, brain fog, and other symptoms in people who ingest wheat or other grains that contain gluten. (Here are 17 of the best foods for your gut health.)
Luckily, hundreds of food manufacturers, restaurants, and bakeries across the country offer options for those who can’t safely consume gluten. To identify the 30 best cities for gluten-free food in 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a ranking created by LawnStarter, a lawn-care start-up that conducts research into city and state amenities.
Drawing on data from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Find Me Gluten Free, Gluten Intolerance Group, Google, Meetup, and TripAdvisor, LawnStarter ranked 199 of the largest American cities across nine metrics, differently weighted, in categories including access (gluten-free establishments per square mile and number of gluten-free options at nearby airports), quality (ratings and number of reviews for gluten-free establishments), and community (number of celiac disease and gluten-free meetup groups and gluten intolerance support groups). Search volume for gluten-free-related terms (“interest”) and number of allergy specialists per 100,000 residents were also measured.
In terms of access, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia have the most establishments per square mile serving gluten-free food. In the interest category, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have the highest average Google search volumes, with New York placing first overall and also first in the demand and community metrics. A few cities – including Little Rock, San Antonio, and Los Angeles – showed a high demand for gluten-free food, but poor access or quality.
Portland, Oregon, scored high in the community ranking – tying with New York – and has the most support groups for the gluten-intolerant. Support groups can be crucial for such people, as strangers, family members, and even health care professionals sometimes minimize their problems or insist that they aren’t real.
30. Dallas, TX
> Overall score: 36.3
> Top ranking metric: Community
> Estimate total GF restaurants: 235
29. Austin, TX
> Overall score: 36.36
> Top ranking metric: Community
> Estimate total GF restaurants: 269
28. Cincinnati, OH
> Overall score: 36.44
> Top ranking metric: Health
> Estimate total GF restaurants: 94
27. Spring Valley, NV
> Overall score: 36.5
> Top ranking metric: Quality
> Estimate total GF restaurants: 7
26. Los Angeles, CA
> Overall score: 36.61
> Top ranking metric: Demand
> Estimate total GF restaurants: 356
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