Oats: that ubiquitous, always available grain that comes in a form anywhere from glop thrown in a bowl, to a high end energy bar, to a packet that is probably more sugar than anything else. Although many people find it to be delicious, many people also despise it. The only thing more confusing than the statistical probability that your spouse will like or hate oat meal just as much as you are: are Oats Gluten Free?
Would it be a helpful answer if I said it depends? Sadly it is true, sometimes oats are safe to eat and sometimes they are not. While Oats themselves are gluten free (not grain free though)., they end up becoming contaminated in the growth and processing phases. Sometimes oats grow together with wheat, as well as being transported and processed together. Therefore, the oat itself will not cause you harm, while the cross contact that occurs that will get you into trouble.
Not sure what cross contact is? Find out here!
What am I to do!?
“I love oatmeal! What am I to do!?” You say. The great thing is the market has provided us an option! Certified gluten free oats are available and fairly easy to obtain. Amazon has 6 and counting different brands of certified gluten free oats available. Trader Joes has a great gluten free oat, and its one of the most inexpensive.
Gluten Free Oats come in all shapes and sizes just like regular oats. You can buy them rolled, or quick cooking, or flavored in packets, or in cups, or as steel cut or whole grouts. Whatever you preferred way to eat oats, you can do it with gluten free oats!
A Word on Trust
Once you start roaming the internet looking for gluten free related articles, you will quickly find broken trust. Someone ate a product that made them sick. Maybe it was mislabeled, or they grabbed the wrong thing, or it was contaminated, who really knows. However, their trust in that part of the system is now broken.
There is an inherent trust we have to place in the purity of our food sources. That is true for all of our food, not just gluten free products! Praise God we have a remarkably safe food system here in the United States and almost the entire 1st world. We can walk into any grocery store and not be fearful our food might be spiked with a poison or our flour is cut with talcum powder. Those are very real fears for much of the world.
Individuals with food allergies have to take on even more trust, though. When we buy a product that says Gluten Free we trust them that they are telling the truth! Third party certifications do help with that but then we are trusting the third party. While there are ways to test foods yourself, self-testing for gluten gets expensive and time consuming and is another topic on its own.
Should I just not eat anything but raw carrots then that I grew myself then? No, but we do need to pay attention and ask questions. Read labels, research companies, look for third party certifications, and understand what a company is about. In the case of oats, look for information like is included on the back of the Trader Joes GF oats bag below. Most importantly in the end after you’ve done your research, relax and enjoy life. Stressing over the food is not worth it.
Can I eat O’s?
Cheerios, the favorite food of everyone below the age of 6, plus a lot of them above 6 too! Are the oats gluten free in cheerios? That is a fantastic question to ask, and certainly is highly relevant to our discussion of trust.
Cheerios uses oats from mixed crop fields and as such cannot be certified gluten free. None the less, they call them gluten free, and most gluten free people can eat them. Why? The deal is they have developed a process to separate out the wheat, barley, etc that might be mixed in. Cheerios then tests their product to make sure it is below the Federal Standard of 20 ppm of gluten. To find out more information, go here.
The fact that they developed a giant sorting machine to do this is pretty cool! But, we place trust in the manufacturer here, no matter how cool the science is. Are cheerios safe to eat for gluten sensitive people? You have to find out for yourself. I and my daughters can tolerate them without any issues, but I know others who cannot. Can other people not tolerate them because of the potential for gluten cross contact in cheerios or something else entirely? It’s hard to know.
Try a few and see how you do, you might be surprised! If you find your can’t tolerate them, some toddler with gladly take them off your hands 🙂
Are oats gluten free? The answer is yes, oats themselves are gluten free, but often get contaminated later. You should find a quality manufacturer that sells a certified gluten free oatmeal that makes you happy, and go enjoy it!