Those who follow a gluten-free diet often find it difficult to avoid foods containing gluten. For people who have gluten sensitivities or have received a diagnosis of celiac disease, it can be tough to find foods that are safe to eat. This is especially the case when you consider that even naturally gluten-free foods aren’t always quite what they seem.
But What About Oatmeal?
It’s true that oatmeal is a delicious, nutritious, and filling breakfast option, and is a great choice for those concerned about their health. The real issue here is whether or not it’s a good choice for people who eat gluten-free.
Before we dive into whether or not oatmeal is gluten-free, you’ll need to understand what gluten actually is. This will help you understand the answer to your main question
What is Gluten Anyway?
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins and creates elasticity in dough and pasta. A lot of your favorite foods from the grain family probably have gluten. For example, wheat, rye, and barley all contain gluten, meaning that common foods like muffins, donuts, cake, and most bread contain gluten too. If you don’t have a gluten allergy, it’s relatively harmless. But someone with a gluten-intolerant can get very ill from consuming gluten, even if they’re just exposed to something naturally gluten-free that’s been cross-contaminated with just a little bit of gluten. In fact, people with celiac disease actually experience damage to their intestinal lining when they eat even a tiny amount of gluten. With such negative health effects, it’s extremely important for those who are gluten intolerant to know for sure if their food is gluten-free.
There are even regulations surrounding the labeling of gluten-free foods to ensure the food is safe for those who need to avoid gluten. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only allows the “gluten-free” label on foods that contain no more than 20 parts per million (ppm) traces of gluten. This standard is set at 20 ppm because it’s the lowest level that is reliably tested using scientific analysis methods. This minuscule amount is also typically not dangerous for those who have a sensitivity to gluten.
So is Oatmeal Gluten Free?
The answer is yes! Well, kind of. Oats in their natural form are gluten-free. This means that if you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, oatmeal is safe for consumption, most of the time. However, it all depends on where the oats are sourced from.
If the oats in your oatmeal are sourced from fields that also grow barley, wheat, or rye, they’re cross-contaminated, and technically, not gluten-free. Not only that but even if oats are grown in fields alone, they can still be cross-contaminated if those oats are then processed in a plant where they process foods with gluten. To make matters worse, if oats are ever transported in a truck that transports products with gluten, this can also cross-contaminate them and make them unsafe for consumption.
In short, it’s best to do your research when choosing which brand of oats to buy. Make sure they guarantee their product is free from cross-contamination, just to be safe! That’s a long way of saying that oats are, in fact, gluten-free, but it’s very important to know all the facts before choosing which oatmeal to buy.