Is Oatmeal Gluten Free?

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One of the toughest things for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance to give up is oatmeal. It is a popular comfort food — warm, creamy and extremely versatile. The good news is that you may not have to give up oatmeal. Is oatmeal gluten free? Yes, oatmeal is naturally a gluten free food, but, as with many foods, cross contamination can pose a problem for celiacs. Here’s what you need to know about oatmeal when you’re living with gluten sensitivity.

Are Oats Gluten Free?
So, do oats have gluten or not? Unlike wheat, rye and barely, oat’s primary protein is avenin rather than gluten. However, some celiacs — around 10 to 15 percent — have the same reaction to avenin as they do gluten. For most people with gluten sensitivities, however, gluten free oats and oat products are safe to eat.

Is Oatmeal Gluten Free?
A common question people with gluten sensitivities ask is, “Does oatmeal have gluten?” Oatmeal may or may not be gluten free. You will have to check labels carefully. Most of the top oatmeal brands are produced in plants where foods containing wheat and similar grains are processed. This can lead to serious reactions for those with strong gluten sensitivities. Even if the machines don’t touch wheat, dust or powder from the wheat can contaminate the oats as they are being processed. To complicate things even further, oatmeal can be contaminated during storage and shipping as well. Check the packaging for the “Certified Gluten Free” label. This ensures that your oatmeal is grown, processed and packaged in an environment free of gluten contamination.

Which Brands are Safe?
Not long ago, people with gluten sensitivity were hard pressed to find suitable oat products, but that is no longer the case. Many brands offer quality gluten-free oat products. Some of the most popular brands are Bob’s Red Mill, GF Harvest, Holly’s Oatmeal, Cream Hill Estates and Montana Gluten Free. Trader Joe’s also has gluten free oatmeal. Some of these brands carry other products you may want to try like granola and granola bars. Be careful when you make your purchases, though. Some brands also carry regular oatmeal which may be contaminated with gluten.

What Are the Alternatives to Oatmeal?
If you are sensitive to oats and oatmeal, try cream of rice. It doesn’t have the substantive feel of oats, but can be a tasty hot cereal for those chilly mornings. Like oatmeal, it is versatile. Add fruit like bananas, blueberries or strawberries to liven up the dish. Top it with chopped nuts. Drizzle some syrup over it or add a pinch of cinnamon and sugar.

What Else Should You Be Aware Of?
Because some people with gluten sensitivity have reactions to oatmeal, you should incorporate it into your diet slowly under a physician’s guidance. If you have problems tolerating the oatmeal, stop eating it immediately. Even if you find that you are able to eat oatmeal, avoid eating it in restaurants because there is no guarantee that it wasn’t contaminated during cooking.

Most people with gluten sensitivities can still enjoy a hot bowl of oatmeal occasionally. Limit your serving to ½ cup and do not eat it every day. Carefully assess yourself for symptoms of sensitivity when you begin incorporating it into your diet.

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