Are Oats Gluten Free?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: Yes, however….

Farmers practice something call “crop rotation”. This is just another way of saying that fields are planted with different crops at different times. This is good because it helps add different nutrients to the soil while reducing the chance of bacteria, bugs, weeds, or other problems associated with a single crop to take hold. Variety is good for soil and crops.

However, wheat (or other gluten-containing grains) can be one of the plants being rotated in and out of oat fields. During harvest, some wheat can be harvested and processed alongside the oats. There is an increased chance of cross-contamination due to this issue. For most of us, this is a chance we don’t want to take.

Further to this, oats and wheat (or barley or rye) can be processed on the same equipment. As we all know, gluten is a bit sticky, so cleaning it entirely from machines can be challenging. Again, the issue is an increased potential of cross-contamination.

Gluten-free oats are grown and processed in a way that eliminates (or significantly reduces as there are no guarantees in the plant world) these chances of cross-contamination. This also makes growing and processing oats more expensive for the farmers and processing facilities.

Oats are, of course, excellent whole grains. They are a tool in fighting high cholesterol in addition to being a great source of fiber. They have lots of protein, and whole (steel-cut or rolled) oats have a relatively low glycemic index, reducing the chances of spiking your blood sugar (note that instant oats are highly processed and/or contain added sugars, so they *will* be processed into sugars by your body much more quickly than whole oats).

In addition to traditional oatmeal (I like mine savory, not sweet!), I use oat flour in recipes that need a good binder, such as vegetable pancakes or meatballs that usually require bread crumbs, or thickener, such as gravies. I like to use instant or rolled oats as a breading option for chicken fingers or other fried foods. And, if I ever find the time to make my own protein bars, oaks will be a huge part of that mix.

What ideas do you have for great meals involving oats?

Tip of the Week

Before buying oats or oat products, verify that the product is indeed gluten free. I did a quick search on Amazon to see what kind of variety they sell when it comes to steel-cut oats — to my surprise, one of the results was not gluten free at all!

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

Steel-cut oats are a challenge to make if you’re rushed for time in the morning. They simply take longer to cook than the less nutritious (from my perspective) instant oats. And (from my perspective) the flavor of steel-cut oats is far superior to their instant brethren. They are worth the time and effort.

Happily, smarter minds than mine have developed techniques to make preparing steel-cut oats for breakfast highly efficient. The great thing about these recipes is that they can be adapted to be sweet or savory or whatever your taste buds like most. There are two processes: crockpot or slow cooker for steel-cut oats or “overnight” oats using rolled, not instant, oats. Instant oats will fall apart in either preparation.

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2 thoughts on “Are Oats Gluten Free?”

  1. i understand that — it’s weird, isn’t it, what foods we can’t tolerate? — and i am wondering what it is about oats that create such discomfort for so many. granted, my husband has a weird reaction to corn, so it might be that i need to accept that our bodies do what our bodies do.

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