What Role Should Oats Play in a Gluten Free Diet?

Gluten-free oats
Mmmmm... yummy oats for breakfast or cooking.

I love oatmeal! I eat it almost every morning for breakfast. Yum, yum, yum! So when I found out I couldn’t eat gluten, this was an important subject for me to know about. I was looking up sites on the internet, and I got very confused. One site would say “no oats” while another one would say oats were fine but in moderation. What the heck?! What am I supposed to do with that info? So I did what most people would do in my situation. I chose to believe the one that fit best with what I wanted. I kept eating oats. I thought everything was just fine.

I was always a bit off in the mornings, but that was easily explainable. I was finishing up my college degree. Of course, I was tired. I was starting a new job and had to be up early. Of course, I was tired. I was pregnant. Of course, I was tired. I was a new mom. Of course, I was tired. But when my son started sleeping through the night, I didn’t have an excuse to always be “a little off” and tired in the mornings.

It was just about this time when I was doing a lot of research for our new website. I was reading every book I could get my hands on: Gluten Free Diet by Shelley Case, RD; Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Peter H.R. Green, M.D.; Living Gluten-Free for Dummies by Danna Korn; Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Eating by Eve Adamson and Tricia Thompson, MS, RD ; and The Living Gluten-Free Answer Book by Suzanne Bowland. After all of this information going into my head, I finally started to figure out what was up with oats. The great thing for me was that I was going to get to keep eating my oats in the morning. It was just going to get a little more expensive.

So here it is. Oats do not actually contain gluten, but almost all oats are grown in close proximity to wheat, rye, and/or barley. And they are processed in facilities that also process wheat, rye, and/or barley. So they are usually contaminated with gluten from wheat, barley and/or rye. Lucky for us, some smart manufacturers are producing gluten-free oats. No cross-contamination. But, about 2 – 3 % of the population of the people with Celiac Disease cannot tolerate any oats at all, even if they are gluten free. They are sensitive to protein in oats as well.

For the rest of us, though, we can eat “gluten free” oats in moderation (It is recommended to not eat more than one cup of cooked oats per day.) And, now we can buy gluten free oats. These oats are grown and processed completely separate from wheat, rye, and/or barley. And they have been tested to make sure they meet the gluten free standards of under 20ppm. It is best to consult with your doctor if you are going to add gluten-free oats to your diet. Your doctor will probably want to test you to make sure you are tolerating them.

As far as steel-cut oats go, there is anecdotal evidence that some people with Celiac Disease are ok eating them, but there was a study done a few years ago that showed that it is hit or miss with the gluten content. Some batches tested under 20ppm, but some tested over 700ppm, so it is kind of like playing Russian Roulette. And gluten free steel-cut oats are also available. And they are pretty comparable to the price of regular steel-cut oats.

So, Patricia, my overall recommendation is to get gluten free oats, either steel-cut or rolled, and enjoy. But you might want to let your doctor know in case he/she wants to make sure you are ok with them. I have found Bob’s Red Mill brand of both rolled and steel-cut oats at a local store, but there are other brands available on the internet.

Enjoy your oats, and until later, here’s to… Living better, easily!

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3 Responses to “What Role Should Oats Play in a Gluten Free Diet?”

  1. Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanac commented that if you feed a horse oats in the morning, he will be happy all day. I would add that the same is true for people if the oats are gluten-free.