What is National gluten-free Day?

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, both for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and those simply looking to cut back on gluten for health reasons. With more awareness around gluten-free needs, there are now more options than ever when dining out or grocery shopping. National Gluten-Free Day, celebrated on May 17th, brings further awareness to the importance of gluten-free options.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For most people, gluten poses no issues and is a normal part of a healthy diet. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an abnormal immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more. The only treatment for celiac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

Gluten is found in many common foods and drinks, like bread, pasta, baked goods, cereals, beer and more. It can also be found in less obvious places, like soy sauce, salad dressings, seasoned rice, fried foods and more. This makes following a gluten-free diet more complex than simply avoiding breads and pastas.

When is National Gluten-Free Day?

National Gluten-Free Day is observed annually on May 17th.

History of National Gluten-Free Day

National Gluten-Free Day was founded in 2009 by Registered Dietitian Tricia Thompson. Thompson is considered a pioneer in the gluten-free community, having founded the Gluten Free Watchdog blog in 2008 to test gluten-free products for safety and proper labeling.

In 2009, Thompson decided to establish a National Gluten-Free Day on May 17th. She chose this date as it fell within both Celiac Awareness Month in May and Celiac Awareness Week from May 10-16. This allowed National Gluten-Free Day to build further awareness at the culmination of a full month dedicated to celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

How is National Gluten-Free Day Celebrated?

National Gluten-Free Day is celebrated in many different ways by individuals, restaurants and organizations across the country. Here are some of the most popular ways to observe the day:

Trying New Gluten-Free Recipes

Many people use National Gluten-Free Day as motivation to experiment with new gluten-free recipes. From breads and desserts to main courses, there are endless recipes to try that are both delicious and gluten-free. This is a great way to celebrate the expansive options those on a gluten-free diet can still enjoy.

Dining at Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants

Restaurants have come a long way when it comes to gluten-free offerings. Many restaurants now have dedicated gluten-free menus or clear labels on which dishes can be prepared gluten-free. National Gluten-Free Day is the perfect excuse to explore new gluten-free friendly restaurants in your community. This shows support to restaurants making an effort to accommodate special diets.

Attending Gluten-Free Festivals and Conferences

Many cities host annual gluten-free festivals and conferences around National Gluten-Free Day. These events bring together gluten-free brands, restaurants, speakers and consumers for a celebratory environment. Festivals often include vendor booths to sample new products, seminars from experts and cooking demonstrations. Attending such an event is a great way to feel part of the gluten-free community.

Promoting Awareness on Social Media

Social media provides the perfect platform to bring attention to National Gluten-Free Day. Individuals and organizations often post gluten-free recipes, tips, personal stories and more using the hashtag #GlutenFreeDay. Following this hashtag is a great way to connect with others celebrating gluten-free lifestyles. Posting your own content promotes further awareness of the gluten-free community.

Gluten-Free Statistics in America

Here are some key statistics that demonstrate the growing prevalence of gluten-free diets in the United States:

People with Celiac Disease

– 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease – approximately 3 million Americans.

– 95% of people with celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

– Celiac disease can develop at any age.

People Cutting Back on Gluten

– 14% of adults say they are now buying or consuming food labeled gluten-free, an 8% increase from 2013.

– 65% of consumers say they are cutting back on gluten for health reasons.

– Millennials are leading the trend, with over 25% trying to cut back on gluten.

Growth of the Gluten-Free Market

– The gluten-free market totaled just $4.2 billion in 2012. It is predicted to reach over $7 billion by 2027.

– Gluten-free sales grew 44% from 2012-2015, much faster than overall food and beverage sales.

– There are now over 75,000 gluten-free products available, including 600 new products annually.

Most Popular Gluten-Free Foods

Food Item Percent Purchasing Gluten-Free
Breads and Bakery Items 74%
Snack Foods 65%
Dairy/Eggs 62%
Prepared Foods 60%
Condiments 58%

Important Figures in the Gluten-Free Community

Several individuals stand out for their influential work in the gluten-free community. Here are some of the most important figures:

Alessio Fasano, M.D.

Dr. Alessio Fasano is one of the country’s foremost experts on celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. In 1996, his research team published groundbreaking research identifying zonulin as the key protein responsible for increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” in celiac patients. His work led to greater understanding, recognition and diagnosis of celiac disease worldwide.

Dr. Fasano also led multiple initiatives to improve diagnosis rates and quality of life for celiac patients. He founded the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in 1996, which became the nation’s leading facility for celiac research and treatment. He also helped launch the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in 2006.

Alice Bast

Alice Bast is the founder and president of Beyond Celiac, previously the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Bast founded the organization in 2003 as the first patient advocacy group for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Beyond Celiac has been instrumental in raising awareness, promoting research and driving diagnosis of celiac disease.

Key initiatives pioneered by Bast and Beyond Celiac include the establishment of May as Celiac Awareness Month, creation of the Gluten-Free Product Certification program and the GREAT Gluten-Free Community. Bast herself authored multiple books on the gluten-free diet while overcoming celiac disease personally.

Jennifer Esposito

Actress Jennifer Esposito publicly advocated for greater celiac disease awareness after being diagnosed herself in 2007. Before her diagnosis, Esposito suffered debilitating symptoms like fatigue, bone pain and depression but was misdiagnosed for over a decade.

After eliminating gluten from her diet, Esposito became an outspoken advocate for proper diagnosis and quality of life for celiac patients. She partnered with Dr. Fasano to increase education on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Esposito also authored two books sharing her personal health journey and gluten-free recipes.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Despite growing awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, several myths and misconceptions still persist:

Myth: Gluten-free diets are just a fad diet.

For individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the gluten-free diet is medically necessary, not a fad. While the popularity of gluten-free diets has certainly grown among the general public, there are legitimate medical reasons spurring the trend for many. Distinguishing between medical necessity and personal preference is important.

Myth: You need to have celiac disease to go gluten-free.

Though celiac disease requires a gluten-free diet, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is becoming more recognized as well. Some individuals feel better removing gluten even if they test negative for celiac disease antibodies. Working with a doctor to trial a gluten-free diet can help identify whether you should avoid gluten for wellbeing.

Myth: Only bread and pasta contain gluten.

While gluten is most concentrated in products like bread, pasta, baked goods and cereals, it can be found in many everyday products as well. Gluten is often used as a stabilizing or thickening agent, hidden in foods like french fries, salad dressings, seasoned rice and more. Checking labels for “gluten-free” is key.

Myth: Going gluten-free is easy.

Eliminating gluten completely is challenging, requiring vigilance reading labels and asking questions when dining out. Even tiny amounts of cross-contamination can trigger symptoms. Planning, label-reading and communicating with staff about gluten-free needs takes effort. Support groups can help navigate the learning curve.

Myth: Gluten-free foods are healthier.

While gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and dairy are healthy, gluten-free substitute foods are not necessarily more nutritious. Some gluten-free products are higher in calories, sugar and fat to make up for the missing gluten. Focusing on whole, naturally gluten-free foods is ideal for balance.

Tips for Following a Gluten-Free Diet

For those needing or choosing to go gluten-free, these tips can help make the transition smoother:

Get tested for celiac disease first.

Removing gluten prior to testing will skew blood test results, making proper diagnosis difficult. Getting tested while still consuming gluten provides an accurate baseline should you have celiac disease.

Beware of cross-contamination.

Even crumbs or traces of gluten can trigger reactions. Use separate toasters, spreadable items like butter or peanut butter, and reinforce proper prep procedures with family and at restaurants.

Learn to read food labels.

Labels listing “gluten-free” or “no gluten ingredients” help identify safety at a glance. Also know major sources of gluten like wheat, barley, rye and malt.

Cook more meals at home.

Preparing your own gluten-free meals allows control over ingredients. Sticking to naturally gluten-free whole foods like produce, meats, dairy and gluten-free grains is straightforward.

Find community and gluten-free resources.

Connecting with others via social media groups, local meet-ups and organizations like Beyond Celiac provides support navigating the gluten-free world.

Delicious Gluten-Free Recipes to Try

Here are 5 delicious gluten-free recipes to try in celebration of National Gluten-Free Day:

1. Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

– 1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup butter, softened
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 egg
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate large bowl, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
4. Gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Scoop dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon balls and place on prepared baking sheets.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet.

2. Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Pizza

– 1 cup warm water
– 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
– 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
– Favorite gluten-free and dairy-free toppings

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a pizza pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together warm water and yeast until foamy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add brown rice flour, eggs, olive oil and salt, stirring to form a sticky dough.
4. On prepared pan, spread dough into a round pizza crust shape. Bake 10 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and add desired toppings like tomato sauce, veggies, vegan cheese.
6. Bake additional 5-10 minutes until heated through.

3. Easy Gluten-Free Chicken Fried Rice

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
– 3 eggs, beaten
– 3 cups cooked brown rice
– 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
– 3 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
– 2 teaspoons sesame oil
– Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook 5-7 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet.
2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Add eggs and scramble until just set, about 2 minutes.
3. Return chicken to skillet along with rice, peas and carrots. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

4. Easy Gluten-Free Banana Bread

– 1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
– 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
– 1 egg
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, mix mashed bananas, honey or maple syrup, egg, vanilla and melted butter.
4. Pour wet banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Allow bread to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

5. Simple Smoothie Bowl

– 1 cup frozen strawberries
– 1 small banana, sliced and frozen
– 1/2 cup coconut milk or almond milk
– Toppings like sliced bananas, berries, chia seeds, coconut, GF granola

1. Add strawberries, banana and milk to a high speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Pour into a bowl and add desired toppings. Best enjoyed immediately.


National Gluten-Free Day on May 17th provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate and bring awareness to gluten-free needs and options. There are now more gluten-free products, recipes, restaurants and resources than ever for those requiring a gluten-free diet or simply looking to reduce gluten. Bringing family and friends together to try new gluten-free recipes, dine at accommodating restaurants and spread the word on social media are all excellent ways to observe the day. The gluten-free movement will only continue growing, with improved diagnosis rates and quality of life for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. With proper education and awareness, those avoiding gluten can live full, healthy lives pursuing the foods they enjoy.

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