Are oats okay for people who avoid gluten?

Some, but not all oats, are okay for people with celiac disease or who avoid gluten. ‘Uncontaminated’ oats may be safe for these people to eat. But what does that mean exactly? I wanted to have some clarity around this topic so I looked into it a little deeper.

At first I thought that it was just a matter of cross-contamination – that oats tend to be grown and processed in the same fields and factories as wheat, barley and rye. So during harvesting and processing they become contaminated with gluten.

However, there are now companies that produce oats in gluten controlled facilities. So does that mean that you could eat unlimited amounts of uncontaminated oats from a non-gluten facility? Not necessarily.

Although the protein in oats isn’t the same one that’s found in wheat, barley and rye, studies that were done with uncontaminated oats showed that some people with celiac disease still experienced problems. However, there were also groups of people that didn’t experience any negative reactions at all.

Technically the protein in oats is different from gluten but it still a close cousin and some people react to it whereas others don’t.

So, what’s the bottom line? It’s generally accepted that 50-70 grams per day (1/2 to ¾ cup dry rolled oats) can be included in a gluten free diet. However, people should have good control of their gluten issues before introducing oats into their diet and be followed by a medical practitioner on a regular basis.*

*Mohsin Rashid, M. Guidelines for Consumption of Pure and Uncontaminated Oats by Individuals with Celiac Disease, Professional Advisory Board of Canadian Celiac Association. 2007 June –

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