Are Oats Actually Gluten-Free?

I need answers here.


Korin Miller |

One of my good friends has Coeliac disease, and I have a minor freakout every time she comes over and food is involved. Why? Because once I literally almost killed her.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m still scarred by the time I offered her a muffin I made with almond flour that I thought was gluten-free…until I realised that I had no idea if the oats I threw in for texture were GF, too. Cue me forcibly yanking back the muffin I offered to her and tossing it straight into the trash like the horrible, gluten-packed food it was. Or might have been? I actually don’t know.

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That’s because when you go to buy oats at the supermarket, there are some packages of oats labelled “gluten-free” and others that aren’t.

Gluten is protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). And it’s very obviously present in bread and crackers. But oats aren’t any of those…so what’s up with that GF label?

It turns out that I was right-ish about oats. They’re inherently gluten-free, says Jessica Cording, a New York-based registered dietician. But—and this is a big but—cross-contamination with wheat is really common, she says. Say if your oats were processed and packaged in a factory that also deals with wheat products, odds are pretty high that there was some contamination.

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Oat can even be contaminated in the field since they often grow side by side with wheat, says Beth Warren, registered dietician and founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life with Real Food.

So, if you grew and picked your oats yourself and rolled them out with no wheat around, you’re probably totally cool to serve them to someone with a gluten allergy or intolerance. But if you plan to buy them at the store like everyone else, it’s important to check the label for a “gluten-free” stamp to make sure it’s actually free of gluten, Warren says.

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