Are Oats Gluten-Free? Nutrition, Benefits and More

Oats are often praised as one of the healthiest breakfast options around — but many people are also confused about how oats are made and what makes them different from other cereal grains, including wheat.

Left wondering — “Are oats gluten-free?” — some people choose to give them up all together without knowing the full story.

So what’s the verdict on oats? Are they healthy or likely to lead to gluten sensitivity, indigestion and other issues, much like refined carbohydrates do?

Below we cover whether different types of oats are gluten-free, plus pros and cons of including them in your diet.

What Are Oats?

Oats — which come from the plant with the scientific name Avena sativa — are a type of common whole-grain cereal grain grown for the seeds.

Can you eat oatmeal on a gluten-free diet? In some cases, yes.

Even if you think it’s time to give up gluten — and therefore foods like bread, pasta, most cereals, etc.— fortunately you don’t need to also ban all oats.

Oats vs. Wheat

Wheat, barley and rye grains are the three groups of whole grains that naturally contain the protein gluten. Instead of containing gluten, oats actually have a protein called avenins.

While oats themselves don’t contain gluten, in many cases they are grown on the same land and in rotation with gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley and rye). Gluten grains can grow within oat crops if they’re planted in the field the previous year, in which case the oats become contaminated with gluten.

Although oats are considered an unprocessed whole grain and have certain health benefits that wheat generally does not, it’s still recommended to consume even whole grains in moderation. While they provide important nutrients and can be found in gluten-free verities, grains still have the potential to cause digestive issues and contribute to weight gain and blood sugar imbalances when eaten in large amounts.


Oats have been eaten for thousands of years. In addition to providing important nutrients to growing populations, they’ve also historically been important for feeding livestock.

Evidence shows that wild oats first grew in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East centuries ago, although humans didn’t domesticate these grains until the Bronze Age in Europe. For many years, oat grass was even used for medicinal purposes, including to help balance a women’s menstrual cycle, as an osteoporosis natural remedy and a home remedy for urinary tract infections.

Oats have many uses around the world beyond just being the base for a simple breakfast. For example, oat bread has been an important food for many cultures living in Europe for hundreds of years, especially the English, Irish and Scottish.

They are also used in a variety of baked goods worldwide, including oatcakes, oatmeal cookies and oat bread.

Are Oats Gluten-Free? (How to Be Sure)

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, yes — oats are technically gluten-free grains since they aren’t a type of wheat, barley or rye grain.

Can celiacs eat oats?

Certified, gluten-free oats are considered safe for most people with a gluten allergy, also called celiac disease.

They are also typically easier for most people to digest and less likely to cause negative reactions than certain other grains, so they tend to be tolerated by those with gluten intolerance symptoms too, as long as that person is careful about how the oats are manufactured and processed.

Reports show that “perhaps less than 1 percent of celiac patients show a reaction to a large amount of oats in their diets.”

How do you know if oats are gluten-free?

If someone with a known gluten allergy or sensitivity wants to buy and eat gluten-free oats, he/she should be careful that they’re sourced from a provider that guarantees there hasn’t been cross-contamination with wheat, rye or barley. These types of gluten-free oatmeal brands are labeled “certified gluten-free.”

Keep in mind that organic labeling doesn’t tell you anything about gluten content. Be sure that even if you buy organic oats, you check that they’re certified gluten-free, too.

Which brands of oats are gluten-free?

Here’s how to be sure yours are gluten-free:

  • Most regular oats available in the supermarket (including Quaker types), even organic types or the kind sold in “bulk bins” at health food stores, are likely not 100 percent gluten-free unless they are labeled this way. Why? Because they are often cross-contaminated by foods with gluten due to a number of reasons.
  • It’s very common for oats to be handled in the same facilities that manufacture wheat-containing products, so there’s always a chance that they can become contaminated with gluten during the packaging process. Once the oats are harvested and brought to a manufacturing facility to be cleaned and packaged, gluten crops might be mixed in with them. Thus, little bits of wheat, barley or rye may end up in a package of other grains. Even if this doesn’t happen, oats and gluten crops are likely to be processed using the same equipment, which creates another chance for contamination.
  • Gluten-free oats are guaranteed to be grown on fields that aren’t used to grow gluten crops, shipped in gluten-free trucks and processed on gluten-free equipment.
  • Quality inspections by third parties also ensure the pedigreed crops are free from contamination by wheat, rye, barley and other related grains — and that the gluten-free product is, in fact, that. This is the only way to be totally sure that oats are safely free of even trace amounts of gluten.

Nutrition Facts

Oatmeal is one of the most popular whole grain recipes worldwide, and for good reason. Oat grains are a good source of fiber, trace minerals and even plant-based protein.

Eating gluten-free oatmeal regularly is a good way to obtain B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. That is why the American Heart Association considers oatmeal to be a “certified heart healthy food.”

Like all whole grains, oatmeal even contains some healthy fatty acids since the grain’s entire germ, endosperm and bran remain intact. That is where not only nutrients are stored, but also small amounts of essential fats.

A half cup (about 40 grams) of regular dried or instant rolled oats (which makes about one cup of cooked oatmeal) contains approximately:

  • 154 calories
  • 28 grams carbohydrates
  • 5–6 grams protein
  • 1–2 grams fat
  • 4–5 grams fiber
  • 5 milligrams manganese (73 percent DV)
  • 166 milligrams phosphorus (16 percent)
  • 7 milligrams selenium (16 percent)
  • 56 milligrams magnesium (14 percent)
  • 0.19 milligrams thiamine (12 percent)
  • 7 milligrams iron (10 percent)
  • 5 milligrams zinc (10 percent)
  • 0.16 milligram copper (8 percent)
  • 0.45 milligram pantothenic acid/vitamin B5 (5 percent)


1. Help Lower Cholesterol

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, particularly beta-glucans, which can help naturally lower cholesterol when eaten several times or more per week.

B-glucan is a soluble dietary fiber found in the endosperm cell walls of oats that’s praised for its cholesterol-lowering, insulin-regulating properties. In fact, because they contain more soluble fiber than many other grains, oats are one of the most recommended grains for reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, total cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a high-fiber diet (with as little as just three grams of soluble fiber daily from whole grains) can lower the risk for heart disease. Studies show that people who consume whole grains like oats and eat plenty of fiber from whole foods are more likely to maintain better cardiovascular health, in addition to a healthier body weight.

One reason this is true is because they not only contain fiber, but important, heart-healthy trace minerals and phenolic compounds linked to lower inflammation levels, reduced hypertension and disease prevention. The fiber we acquire from these grains swells up in the digestive tract, absorbing water and taking with it waste and excess cholesterol particles.

2. Provide Filling Fiber

Whole grains contain more belly-filling fiber, in addition to more vitamins and minerals, compared to processed and refined cereal grains or carbohydrates.

Soluble fiber is present in the outer casing, called the bran. Oats contain about 55 percent soluble fiber and 45 percent insoluble fiber.

Fiber is more than a regulator. High-fiber foods also take up a large amount of space in your stomach while absorbing water. Thus, they help you feel satisfied despite being low in calories.

Can oats make you fat, or are oats good for weight loss? Oatmeal can help support weight loss because of the high fiber content that makes you feel full, satisfied and less likely to deal with cravings.

Certain studies have found that short- and long-term oatmeal intake has significant effects on controlling hyperglycemia, lowering blood lipids and reducing weight.

Something interesting to note, however, is that if you eat oatmeal regularly for breakfast, make sure to add some protein and fat in order to stay full for longer.

While oats can feel dense and filling, on their own they likely won’t keep you as full as a higher protein breakfast. For example, a 2017 study found that compared to an oatmeal breakfast, two eggs per day does not adversely affect biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease risk in healthy adults but does increase satiety throughout the day.

3. Help Improve Digestion

Fiber can help you maintain regular bowel movements. Because we can’t digest dietary fiber from whole foods, it sweeps through our digestive tracts and pulls toxins and waste along with it.

This is one reason why many studies show that diets higher in fiber can lead to improved gut and colon health, constipation relief, and curtailed irritable bowl syndrome-related symptoms. To get the most benefits from eating whole grains, make sure to also increase your water intake to allow fiber to do its job best.

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Source: draxe