Gluten-Free Oats: Friend or Foe?
Question: Are Oats Gluten Free?
Answer: Technically Yes, But Watch Out
What make an oat gluten free?
Gluten free oats and regular oats look exactly the same, because they basically are the same. Oats themselves do not contain the plant storage proteins that make up gluten. Cross-contamination is usually what makes oats not gluten free as facilities that process oats will likely process other grains, like those actually containing gluten.
A gluten-free diet is low in fiber so oats can be a very important addition if you have no problems tolerating them. Fiber contributes to our health in a variety of ways so anyone following gluten-free diet should keep an eye on how much fiber they consume.
Why you should still watch out:
The Gluten Free Watchdog warns that oats that are labelled as 'gluten-free' are often cross-contaminated. PepsiCo, which owns cereal companies like Quaker, has put out articles describing the difficulties associated with testing oats for gluten. Basically, the gluten-free label can't be relied upon here as oats can skew testing data. This has gotten companies like Cheerios into trouble when they try to transition over to a gluten-free recipe.
Instead, look for more information about gluten-free oat products. Companies that have dedicated manufacturing and fields will usually promote that on their labels. If not, as always with gluten-free products you're unsure about, pick up the phone and ask the company.
The University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center have found that "less than 1% of celiac patients show a reaction to a large amount of oats in their diets" but they also mention that if you experience GI symptoms from adding oats could be from the increase in fiber. Several celiac disease centers recommend that you consult your gastroenterologist before adding oats back to your diet.