Are Oats Gluten Free?

This is a difficult question to answer with a simple YES or NO.

Some people feel that oats that have been milled in an oat-only facility are gluten-free and that they are safe for most people with a gluten-intolerance. 

Other say that because all oats contain a compound called gliadin (a protein found in wheat, rye and other grains that is known for its role, along with glutenin, in the formation of gluten) that all oats inherently contain some gluten.

Regardless of where you stand in this debate, the consensus seems to be that the biggest problem with oats in gluten-free eating, is “contamination” by other grains (such as wheat and rye) that contain gluten. This “contamination” can happen anywhere – from the field to transportation to milling.

Most commercial oats are milled in facilities that also process wheat, barley, rye and other grains. The gluten in these crops can “contaminate” oats, and the nature of most gluten intolerance is that even a trace amount of gluten can cause severe discomfort. So unless you know how the oats were grown, transported and milled, it’s probably best to assume that they are not completely gluten-free. This would be especially relevant if you are celiac or have an extremely strong gluten sensitivity. If, on the other hand, you are just wanting to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet, then oats could be a good option.

Gluten-contamination can happen in the field, when oats are grown side-by-side or in rotation with fields of wheat and other cereal crops. And gluten-contamination can vary widely between batches of processed oats — even oats grown and processed in the same place. So one box of oats may be fine for one gluten-intolerant person, but then the next box might cause a reaction. It’s best to completely avoid conventionally grown and processed oats when cooking for a friend who is celiac.

But there is one last twist on this topic. Notice we said that some oats can be safe for people with gluten-intolerance?  There is a small segment of gluten-intolerant people who also have a hard time with oats. There is some argument about this; some researchers believe that all reactions come from trace contamination in the oats, while others have found evidence that a small percentage of people also have sensitivity to oats in general.

Highwood Crossing Organic Oats are milled in a dedicated, oat-only facility. However, we do grow other crops on our fields besides oats. We have clients with gluten-sensitivities who are able to enjoy our oats without problem, but, where health issues are a concern, we always suggest that you conduct you own trials to determine what foods are right for your specific condition and diet.

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