Are Oats Really Gluten Free?

Are Oats Really Gluten Free?

When thinking about what to eat for breakfast, a steaming hot bowl of oats with banana and honey comes to mind or mixed in as granola or muesli with fruit and yoghurt in summer. However you consume them, most people do include oats as a regular, daily intake of nutrition for breakfast. 

Oats are classified as a grain and also rolled and crushed to make fine flour for baking and used in dry pet food for livestock.

They’re rich in fibre, high in protein, antioxidants, low in fat and highly nutritious with many health benefits.

There are also several types of oats to choose from including rolled, steel-cut and quick (instant) cooking oats and vary slightly in their nutrient profile.

However, you may be wondering whether oats and oatmeal contain gluten.

This article explains how best to include oats in a gluten-free diet.

What’s the problem with gluten?

Gluten-free diets have become very popular as more people in general are suffering the daily effects of IBS and have been tested positive for celiac disease.

In fact, surveys state that as many as 15–30% of the population try to avoid gluten for various health reasons.

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. These proteins give bread and pasta their stretchy, chewy texture (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source).

Most people can eat gluten without any side effects, but these proteins can cause serious health problems for some individuals.

Gluten may cause digestive issues in certain populations because its unique amino acid structure may hinder the digestive enzymes in your gut (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source3Trusted Source4Trusted Source).

If you have celiac disease, your body launches an autoimmune response to gluten, damaging your intestinal lining (5Trusted Source).

If you’re intolerant to gluten, even a tiny amount is harmful, making a gluten-free diet the only way to avoid serious health issues (5Trusted Source6Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

Are oats gluten-free?

Studies by Healthline. 

Pure oats that have not been contaminated or grown alongside other crops that contain gluten are gluten-free and safe for most people with gluten intolerance.

However, oats are often contaminated with gluten because they may be processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

This is why we have sourced oats that have been gluten tested, to ensure its safe for those who suffer from a gluten intolerance. Please read further below for testing results.

Studies show that most people with celiac disease or wheat allergy can tolerate 50–100 grams of pure oats per day without adverse effects (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source11Trusted Source12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

One 8-year study in 106 people with celiac disease revealed that half of them ate oats daily — and none experienced negative effects (10Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

Additionally, some countries recommend including oats in a gluten-free diet. A few studies note that people with celiac disease living in these countries had better intestinal healing than people in countries that did not (10Trusted Source15Trusted Source).

So in summary, pure, uncontaminated oats are also safe for people who have a wheat allergy.

Oats are often contaminated with gluten

Although oats themselves don’t contain gluten if grown and processed in a pure environment, they’re often grown alongside other crops.

The same equipment is typically used to harvest crops in neighbouring fields, which leads to cross-contamination if one of those crops contains gluten.

The sowing seed may also be impure, harbouring a small amount of wheat, rye, or barley seeds.

Additionally, products made with oats are usually processed, prepared, and packaged in the same facilities as gluten-containing products.

Therefore, it’s unsurprising that studies analysing regular oat products identified levels of gluten far exceeding the standard for gluten-free foods (16Trusted Source1718Trusted Source).

One study in 109 oat-containing products on the market in North America and Europe found that the products contained over 200 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, on average (16Trusted Source19Trusted Source).

Just 20 ppm of gluten may be enough to cause a reaction in someone with celiac disease (16Trusted Source). Our gluten-tested oats have come back as <5ppm making them safe to consume.

This high risk of contamination means that it’s unsafe to include conventionally grown oats in a strict gluten-free diet.

Notably, a number of companies have begun to process oats with clean equipment and grow them in fields designated gluten-free. These oats can be marketed as gluten-free and must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten (20).

Still, even gluten-free labels may not be completely reliable. One study discovered that gluten levels exceeded safety limits in 5% of products labelled gluten-free.

However, 100% of the oat products passed the test, implying that labels certifying oats and oatmeal as gluten-free can be trusted in most cases (16Trusted Source21Trusted Source).

Why you may still not be able to tolerate oats?

It is always best practice to avoid eating foods that cause any adverse side effects including the more common side effects of bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, lethargy after eating, headaches and flatulence. A very small number of people with celiac disease (and possibly other auto-immune diseases) may still not be unable to tolerate pure, uncontaminated oats.

This is why…

Pure oats contain a protein called avenin, that may cause problems because it has a very similar amino-acid structure as gluten.

The majority of people who are sensitive to gluten do not react to avenin. They can eat pure, uncontaminated oats with no problems (22Trusted Source).

However, a tiny percentage of people with celiac disease may react to avenin. For these few people, even certified gluten-free oats may be unsafe (16Trusted Source23Trusted Source).

One study discovered that most people with celiac disease had the potential to react to avenin. However, only 8% of the participants had an actual response after eating a large amount of oats (24Trusted Source).

In those cases, the responses were small and did not cause clinical symptoms or relapse. Therefore, the researchers concluded that people with celiac disease could still eat up to 100 grams of pure oats per day (24Trusted Source).

Additionally, two other small studies found that some people with celiac disease experienced a small immune response and more intestinal symptoms while eating oats than those on a traditional gluten-free diet (25Trusted Source26Trusted Source).

Despite these effects, none of the people in these studies experienced any intestinal damage from oats (25Trusted Source26Trusted Source).

Oats have many health benefits

It sucks sometimes to be forced to lead a gluten-free lifestyle, as it becomes very limiting in food choices and avoiding foods you once loved, especially in terms of grains and starchy foods.

Including oats and oatmeal to your diet (if you can tolerate them) can add much-needed variety and sustenance.

What’s more, several studies show that following a completely 100% gluten-free diet may result in an inadequate intake of fibre, B vitamins, folate, and minerals like iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese, and zinc (10Trusted Source27Trusted Source28Trusted Source29Trusted Source).

Oats happen to be a good source of all of these vitamins and minerals. They’re also a fantastic source of fibre, which makes them the perfect natural supplement.

Additionally, oats provide several impressive health benefits:

  • Heart health. Oats can help improve risk factors for heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol (30Trusted Source).
  • Weight loss. Oats and oatmeal can aid weight loss by helping control appetite and increase fullness (31Trusted Source32Trusted Source33Trusted Source).
  • Diabetes control. Oats can help improve blood sugar control, blood fat levels, and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes (34Trusted Source).

Since it’s not possible to know whether you’ll react to avenin, you might want to consult your medical practitioner before adding oats to a gluten-free diet.

However, the vast majority of people can safely enjoy oats and all of the delicious foods made with them.

More About BioHax Organic Rolled Oats - Gluten Tested

We’ve soured sustainably grown and 100% organic, wholegrain rolled oats from Finland.

Oats are a good source of protein and dietary fibre, including soluble beta-glucan. They’re also a complex carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.

While these oats are considered low gluten (<5ppm) or ‘uncontaminated’ under Europe and USA regulations, the Australian Food Standards Code prohibits the use of a ‘gluten-free’ claim on oat containing products. Therefore, due to these “regulations” we must state that these oats “may” contain gluten and “may not be suitable for those with coeliac disease.”

No GMO. Preservative free.

Product of Finland. Packed in Australia.

What are Gluten Tested Oats?

Organic Oats – Gluten Tested are oats that have been grown and processed in a dedicated mill to ensure the entire production chain remains free of contamination from gluten products. They have been tested for gluten and no gluten was detected within the limits of the test (<5ppm). They are sustainably grown and harvested from certified organic, non-GMO seed.

Organic Oats – Gluten Tested are not able to be labelled as ‘gluten-free’ in Australia or NZ. We can call them ‘low gluten’ or ‘uncontaminated’ (also referred to as ‘wheat free’ or ‘pure’) or as we have ‘gluten tested’ to confirm that they are free of contamination from wheat, rye or barley.

What does "Gluten-Free" mean?

Gluten-free means that gluten is not detected in a product, however, the levels of detection are different depending on where you live in the world. This difference in international standards has contributed to a lot of the confusion around the definition of ‘gluten-free’ foods.

In Australia & NZ we have quite strict standards and for a product to be labelled as ‘gluten-free’ this means that the product contains ‘no detectable gluten’. Current testing methods can only detect as low as 5ppm. In the USA and Europe, their standards are more flexible, where foods that contain up to 20ppm of gluten can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’.

What does testing at less than 5PPM mean?

The quantity of gluten in a product can be expressed scientifically as a certain number of parts of gluten contained in every million parts of the product. For example, a product that has no gluten detected at less than 5ppm means that the product has less than 0.0005% gluten content.

Restrictions on "Gluten Free" claims on product labels

The FSANZ code prohibits the use of a ‘gluten-free’ claim on oat containing products, so given this, we are not able to label any oats as "gluten-free". However we can say that they have been "gluten tested" and are less than 5PPM, which should be more tolerable for this with intolerances.

Oats that have been gluten tested and free of contamination, may be better tolerated and digested by those with gluten sensitivities. While the majority of people with Coeliac disease can tolerate uncontaminated/wheat-free oats, we recommend consulting your doctor before consuming any oats or oat containing products. If you do not have a gluten allergy but are looking to minimise gluten in your diet, then gluten tested oats are here for you.