Nutrition Talk: Oats, Gluten and Celiac Disease
Many people wonder if oats are ok to eat on a gluten-free diet. The answer is a little more complicated than a yes or no, but here are the basics you need to know:
- Oats don't actually contain gluten themselves, but they are often grown very close to wheat or processed in plants that also process wheat, and become contaminated with gluten, making them unsafe for people with celiac disease to eat.
- Some companies make oats that have been specially grown and processed to avoid contamination with wheat.
- In Canada, Oats can be labeled "Gluten-free" if they have been tested to ensure they are below the safe limits of gluten to be considered gluten-free (this is 20ppm in Canada). This is a recent update (May 2015) - prior to this oats could only be labeled "pure" or "wheat free."
- A lot of research has been done to determine if pure (Gluten-free) oats are safe for people with celiac disease to consume. You can read more about this on the Health Canada Site
- Gluten-free oats are safe for most people with celiac disease to consume. Clinical evidence shows that most adults with celiac disease can consume 50-70g (1/2-3/4 cup) dry uncontaminated oats daily.
- Oats contain a protein called avenin, which is similar to the protein gluten in wheat, barley, and rye. For most people with celiac disease oats seem to be safe to eat. Some people with celiac disease (and some without) seem to react to avenin in a similar way to gluten, and can't tolerate oats in their diet, even if they're pure.
If you haven't been eating oats and you are starting to again, you may get some GI symptoms (bloating, gas). This is most likely from the fiber in the oats, rather than an intolerance. If you have symptoms that last for a few weeks after you start eating oats, go see a dietitian or your doctor! You may need to have a closer look at your diet to make sure there aren't any sources of contamination.
If you have newly diagnosed Celiac Disease, a dietitian can provide you with information and help you figure out what you can and can't eat.
Companies with Gluten-free oats in Canada:
- Only Oats (Avena Foods) - One of my faves - they're organic and a Canadian company, based in Saskatchewan.
- Bob's Red Mill - Have been around forever, can be found in many stores.
- Cream Hill Estates - Another Canadian company, based in Montreal, and they offer kosher products.
- Nature's Path - Also certified organic and non-GMO and widely available.
THE BOTTOM LINE?
If you can eat oats, do! Oats are a whole grain, full of fiber and other nutrients. They're a nutritional powerhouse, and a much better breakfast than traditional breakfast cereal. Oh, and use thick or steel cut - not the instant kind.