Trust us, it’s not a silly question! In fact, it’s one of the most common things we get asked at events. So, are oats gluten free, or not?
The (very) short answer to this is yes – technically, oats don’t contain gluten. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe for coeliacs or gluten-avoiders to eat…
Do oats actually contain gluten?
There’s a couple of things to understand here:
- Oats themselves don’t contain gluten.
- BUT most oats are processed in fields and factories that handle gluten, so they become cross-contaminated.
So can you eat oats?
If you’re allergic to gluten, or have coeliac disease, then it is advised that you do not eat regular oats – the traces of gluten they are contaminated with may upset your body. You can, however, eat gluten free oats! These are grown and processed in farms and sites that don’t contain any gluten, so are perfectly safe for you to eat. They’re also packed with fibre, and are super delicious and versatile. Don’t forget to always ask your doctor if you are feeling unsure!
A (minor) word of warning: all oats contain avenin
Avenin is a protein that’s similar to, but not the same as, gluten.
About 5% of people with coeliac disease are intolerant or allergic to avenin, so if you eat oats and feel unwell, this could be why.
What should you eat?
Some newly diagnosed coeliacs might be advised to avoid all oats (even gluten free ones) for a few months whilst they adjust – in this case always follow your doctor’s advice – they know best!