I often hear people ask if oats are gluten-free or not. It’s a hot topic amidst those who are either have a gluten allergy, a gluten sensitivity or have coeliacs disease.
This article is all about looking at whether or no oats are gluten-free and why ‘some’ oats might even be contaminated with other gluten foods (like wheat).
I must admit, being very sensitive to gluten I used to find that oats made me sleepy, slow and swelled my belly. Then one day it surprised me to find that oats are actually naturally gluten-free! Hurrah! This made me explore further and the findings were pleasantly surprising.
So why-oh-why did oats make me feel so sleepy? Hmmmmmm?
When I investigated further, I found that farmers normally rotate their crops (i.e. grow different crops in each field every year). This means that oats will typically share fields where gluten grains such as wheat and barley have previously grown. Anyone who knows anything about growing plants in their own gardens will be aware that is that it is almost impossible not to have ‘unwanted’ seeds from previous years crops popping back up randomly. So, this year’s oat crop will inevitably have some of last years wheat popping back up through the soil (for example).
Farmers often also grow these different grains in fields next to each other too, leading to wind-blown contamination. Unfortunately for gluten sensitives, this means a small (but significant) amount of contamination. It has been shown that whilst oats themselves are gluten-free, they are more often than not contaminated with gluten.
Oats have also been shown to be contaminated in the factories (those which also process wheat, rye & barley) or in transportation containers etc.
The good news is that some companies, however, offer certified gluten-free oats. Yay! These are oats grown separately from gluten grains and produced in facilities where there is no sign of anything containing gluten.
Awesome, I thought! But being sceptical by nature I quietly muttered to myself ‘I bet if eat gluten-free oats I’ll still feel sleepy and get that swollen gluten belly’.
With my healthy scepticism in tow, I gave it a shot! The result? Absolutely fabulous! No drowsiness. No swollen gluten belly to make me look 6 months pregnant.
Bouncy, vibrant and happy as can be ***happy dance***.
I LOVE oats again.
Oats contain avenin, a protein ‘similar’ to (but not the same as) gluten
Oats contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. Avenin is distinctively different to the protein fraction in wheat, rye and barley. I’ve read that only a small number of people with coeliac disease have issues with the avenin protein from oats.
One recent Canadian scientific study states:
While recognizing that a few people with celiac disease seem to be clinically intolerant to oats, this review concludes that oats uncontaminated by gluten-containing cereals (wheat, rye, and barley) can be safely ingested by most patients with celiac disease… Read more from that study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4904695/
The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center states the following…
A large body of scientific evidence accumulated over more than 15 years has proven that oats are completely safe for the vast majority of celiac patients. Oats are not related to gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. They don’t contain gluten, but rather proteins called avenins that are non-toxic and tolerated by most celiacs (perhaps less than 1% of celiac patients show a reaction to a large amount of oats in their diets). Oats can be in a celiac’s diet provided they are selected from sources that guarantee a lack of contamination by wheat, rye or barley. Some who add oats to their diet may experience GI symptoms. This may actually be a result of the increased fiber that oats provide instead of a reaction to the oats themselves. August, 2012
These days, in some way or another, oats make an appearance in my cuisine several times a week (more if I am making lots of delicious treats and have guests around).
I never have any trouble with them at all, as long as I purchase certified gluten-free oats (which may be called ‘uncontaminated oats’ in Australia).
This article was designed to inspire deeper contemplation. If gluten is an issue for you, keep exploring and do let me know if you come across any new and interesting research.
If you aren’t gluten sensitive then you use whatever oats you like, of course!
Some delicious gluten-free vegan recipes using oats…
Homemade Rosemary Oatcakes – a delicious cracker to go with hummus or other dips and spreads.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread – using oats as an essential ingredient. This is incredibly tasty, moist and more-ish!
Nutmeg Oat Cookies – easy to make, naturally sweetened, gluten-free and vegan
Banana Oat Porridge – a wonderful way to start the morning