Oat is a complete food that is not only nutritionally sound but also great to taste. It is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. A perfect mix of slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber, a great source of fuel for breakfast.

What better way to kick-start the day than with a bowl full of oats. The issue of whether oats are safe for a person on gluten-free diet has been addressed many times than I can remember. However, the conundrum remains – is oatmeal gluten free? Before we address the question let’s know a little about Gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten (literally means “glue”) is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley, triticale and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to retain its shape. This protein can cause an autoimmune reaction in individuals who are sensitive to it, resulting in symptoms ranging from stomach pain to nutrient malabsorption. The most effective solution is a strict, gluten-free diet.

Does oatmeal have gluten?

No, oatmeal made from pure oats doesn’t. In fact Oats are not related to gluten-containing grains. They contain protein called Avenin.

So, is oatmeal gluten free?

Technically yes, oatmeal made from pure oats is completely gluten-free. The key word here is pure. The explanation is really simple; oats are naturally gluten-free but are highly likely to be contaminated with a gluten-containing grain. They are frequently grown in rotation with or next to wheat or barley (and even rye). Most likely there will be some foreign grain growing in the oat field which will be harvested along with the oats.

Contamination can happen at many levels. For instance, during harvest (due to the use of shared harvesting equipment) or during transport (due to the use of non-dedicated vehicles).

Cross-contact with gluten-containing grains may be more of an issue with oats than with other naturally gluten-free grains and seeds because oats are similar to gluten-containing grains in size, shape and color. For instance, wheat berries and oat groats are incredibly similar, making it challenging for basic grain cleaning equipment to remove all wheat from a crop of oats. In this scenario there is no way to prevent cross-contamination; therefore regular oats are not safe on a gluten-free diet.

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What does certified gluten free mean?

When certain brands of oat products are labeled as Gluten Free, they don’t mean some special gluten-free variety of oats, they are designated this way because their processing has kept them free of contamination. Certified gluten-free oats are grown in a similar fashion as organic crops. They use pure oat seed grown on fields without wheat, rye or barley in the crop rotation for at least 3 years.

They have dedicated equipment for seeding and harvesting, thoroughly cleaned equipment for transport, a gluten-free facility for processing, and a “Gluten Free” label post extensive testing for contamination. Gluten-free oats are now widely available, and are among the least expensive grains and ingredients.

Why eat oats thoughtfully?

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, oats are a nutritious and versatile ingredient to use for breakfast but it’s wise to check with your doctor before incorporating oats in your diet. This is because a small percentage of people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity also react to Avenin, the protein found in oats.

Also, keep in mind, a diet containing oats is often higher in fiber than the typical gluten free diet. Therefore, some individuals may experience a change in stool pattern or mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal bloating. This will resolve as the body adjusts to the change in the amount and type of fiber. Also, when adding a new fiber source such as oats, it is important to consume more fluids, especially water.

Shopping Tips

When you’re shopping for gluten-free oatmeal, keep these tips in mind:

Avoid bulk bins. There is no way for a retailer to completely eliminate cross-contamination of bulk foods, whether it’s someone using the same scoop to scoop out wheat flour and oatmeal or a worker not changing gloves while restocking the bins. Look for the certified “Gluten Free” label. Don’t order oats or oatmeal in a restaurant, as you cannot be certain that they are pure or weren’t contaminated during cooking.

Eating the same oatmeal porridge every day can become boring. One can bring variation to the traditional oatmeal by experimenting with flavors– for example, a spicy Indian oats recipe shown below that’s not only easy to follow but tastes great too.

The peanuts in the recipe add an extra crunch to the dish and kick up the nutrient content. Not to mention the many benefits of turmeric. These ingredients are readily available at Indian groceries.

Here is my take on a savory oat recipe, which I promise comes together in a jiffy.

Lemon Oats


Oats- ½ Cup (preferably rolled oats)
Lemon Juice- 1 ½ tbsp
Turmeric Powder- 1/4 tsp
Coriander- Few sprigs
Water- 1 Cup
Salt- To Taste
For Tempering:

Oil- 1 tbsp
Mustard Seeds- ½ tbsp
Peanuts- 2 tbsp (optional)
Green Chilly- Chopped (As per taste)
Curry Leaves- Few

Heat a pan and dry roast the oats for a minute and keep aside.
Add oil to pan and the tempering ingredients except the peanuts.
Once the mustard splutter add turmeric and sauté peanuts for a minute.
Next add water and salt, bring it to boil.
Add the oats and spread evenly while stirring continuously. Let it cook for 2 ½ minutes.
Now remove from flame, add the lemon juice and coriander sprigs.

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