Oats are one of the trickiest foods with regards to gluten content. People have been debating whether or not oats are gluten-free for as long as I can remember. I have heard conflicting evidence on both sides of the coin.
Most people believe that the oats themselves are gluten-free. However, cross contamination is the biggest problem for gluten-free people when faced with eating oats. Oats are almost always processed with other grains that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye. They might be harvested in the same fields together, mixed in on the same equipment, and processed with the same machines. No one can tell you for sure that regular oats have not came in contact with gluten-containing foods when you buy them.
Another reason oats are questionable for GF people is because of a protein called avenin. Oats lack most of the proteins found in wheat, but avenin is one of them that they do have. Some studies have shown that some people who are sensitive or allergic to gluten also encounter problems with avenin as well. However, these studies have also shown that even some celiacs do not have a problem with avenin, or oats.
I am just gluten intolerant – not a celiac – and I have never had any problems with steel cut oats. If you are a celiac, don’t risk it; the chance is too high that the oats have come in contact with a gluten-containing grain. If you are gluten intolerant like I am, you might want to cut them out and then introduce them back in slowly. I didn’t eat oats for a while, then I decided to eat a small amount to see if it affected me in any way. I felt fine, so I went for bigger and bigger portions, until I felt completely confident that oats would not affect me in any negative way.
However, I have good news for all celiacs and gluten-intolerant individuals. Some companies have started making gluten-free steel cut oats! It is great knowing some companies actually listen to gluten-free eaters and make a product we can feel safe eating, knowing it is 100% gluten-free. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Steel Cut Oats, which I have found to taste exactly like other steel cut oats. Arrowhead Mills also makes GF steel cut oats, but I can’t comment on the quality and taste since I have never tried them. These gluten-free steel cut oats are a great way to get peace of mind that you can’t get from eating regular steel cut oats.
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