Do I need to use gluten free oats?
Updated: Oct 23
Can oats be gluten free?
All oats do contain a form of gluten- a distant cousin which is often not an issue. Although there a few things to be aware of with oats- read on to see.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the major protein found in wheat. It gives wheat its wonderful elastic quality that can be very hard to replicate.
Gluten is made up of 2 protein parts: gliadin and glutenin. When oats are an issue for people with Coeliac Disease, it is more often the gliadin that is the main trigger.
The other gluten containing grains (apart from oats) are rye (for example rye flour, rye bread or rye biscuits and barley (for example the grain that can be added to soups). All of these contain a 'cousin' to the gliadin- very similar in structure but not identical. The oat version of gliadin is called AVENIN.
ALL OATS CONTAIN AVENIN so technically all oats contain the gluten cousin.
The difference between the AVENIN in oats and the GLIADIN in wheat is that avenin can for a significant proportion of people with Coeliac Disease not be an issue. If you have Coeliac Disease, and would like to reintroduce oat into your diet, discuss this with your gastroenterologist. Many people with non coeliac gluten intolerance can also tolerate avenin in oats.
Wheat Contamination of Oats
For those sensitive to wheat, choosing 'wheat free oats" can be useful to reduce the risk of wheat contamination.
Most oats are grown, harvested and/or stored in a way that means they can be contaminated with wheat.
Only oats that are carefully corn, harvested and stored in a way that minimises any wheat contact can be thought of as " wheat free" oats.
Some times, in America these are called " gluten free' oats, but that is a misnomer. They should be labelled " wheat free " oats.
'Wheat free' or 'Gluten free' oats are oats that are not rotated with wheat when grown, monitored so wheat plants are not blown in from other farms, harvested with machines that are not used for wheat, and stored separately to wheat so there is an extremely low or no risk of wheat contamination.
American wheat free or 'gluten free' oats
I prefer to call oats "wheat free" rather than 'gluten free' as being called 'gluten free' is technically wrong- as discussed above.
Foods in America and Europe can be labelled 'gluten free' (despite continuing the gluten cuisine AVENIN) if contains less than 20 parts per million, while 'wheat free oats' that come from Australia have to have 'no decidable gluten" as per Australian regulations. This means, that if there is any wheat contamination of oats, Australian 'wheat free' oats will likely have a lower level that the American brands. Gloriously Free Oats is an excellent choice, being Australian, although in truth, the American brands are also good choices.
For persons with non Coeliac gluten intolerance- this minute level of possible wheat/gluten contamination of normal oats should not cause an issue.
For those on the low FODMAP diet (that routinely includes wheat in low FODMAP amounts)- this also should not be an issue, unless you are also very wheat sensitive or have Coeliac Disease, as well as being FODMAP sensitive.
Oat milk is always made from normal oats- there are no 'wheat free' oat milks currently available in Australia.
Using Oats in your diet
In short, you do not need to use wheat free oats unless you have Coeliac Disease and are sensitive to the avenin present in oats. If you prefer to use 'wheat free oats'- despite the low risk normal oats provide- then that is ok too!
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