In honor of National Oatmeal Month, I thought I would take a few minutes to talk a bit about gluten free oats. It’s been almost three years since we introduced gluten free oats into the mainstream marketplace, but we still get a lot of questions about them.
If you don’t follow the gluten free diet, you may not understand why oats are such a big deal for those on a gluten free diet, after all oats do not naturally contain gluten. They do contain a protein known as avenin, which is very similar to gluten and can cause adverse reactions in some people. Avenin-sensitivity is not limited to people with celiac disease and can affect people of all walks. It is not particularly common, but you can find more information about it here.
This is one reason why oats should be introduced slowly into the gluten free diet, as celiacs are more likely to be sensitive to avenin. The second main reason why anyone on the gluten free diet should introduce oats slowly into their diet is that the fiber in oats can be hard on a compromised digestive tract. Start with a small serving, about 1/4 cup, per day until your body adjusts. AND we always recommend talking with your physician before adding oats into a gluten free diet.
Oats have long been on the ‘forbidden foods’ list for those with celiac disease because of cross-contact issues at the farm level. Wheat and oats have traditionally been rotation crops which is not ideal for preventing cross-contact. It’s nearly impossible to keep wheat from cropping up with oats when grown as rotation crops. This happens all across the board in the farming industry. Usually, it’s not a problem because most grains can be sorted using high-tech machines. Oats and wheat, however, are very similar in shape, size and color, making standard grain-cleaning practices almost ineffective. New technology has been introduced into the industry that can detect the subtle differences in the two grains, making it far easier to produce gluten free oats.
At Bob’s Red Mill we take it to the next level by working closely with a farming cooperative made up of over 200 farms in Saskatchewan. Each farm has been a dedicated oat farm for over three years prior to joining the coop and uses only pedigreed oat seed. The oats are tested for gluten at the farm level and exhaustively tested upon arrival at Bob’s Red Mill. We use the ELISA Gluten Assay to determine if the oats are under 20 [gluten] parts per million in our in-house laboratory. You can watch a short video about our gluten free facility here.
We now proudly offer three varieties of gluten free oats- regular rolled, steel cut and quick rolled- as well as oat flour. I’ve heard oat bran may be on the list next, but that’s news from the rumor mill.
I hope this has helped clear up any confusion surrounding gluten free oats. If you’ve still got questions, just post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.