Are Oats Gluten-Free? Learn How to Make Sure - Dr. Axe

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Are Oats Gluten-Free? The Truth About Oats & Gluten


Are oats gluten-free? - Dr. Axe

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.

Are oats gluten-free? Some people choose to give them up all together without knowing the full story. 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. And find out if you you can eat oatmeal on a gluten-free diet.

Are Oats Gluten-Free?

Yes, according to, oats are technically gluten-free grains since they aren’t a type of wheat, barley or rye grain.

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.

Studies indicate that while most celiac patients don’t react to oats in their diet, the many different varieties warrant further study.

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” (from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)).

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.

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 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 excessive amounts.

Risks and Side Effects

Even when someone doesn’t have a negative reaction to eating gluten, it’s possible that he or she might experience some symptoms when eating gluten-free grains.

What are the potential side effects of oats? These may include gastrointestinal troubles, including bloating, cramping or diarrhea.

This might be caused by the high level of fiber found in these grains. It is more likely to be a problem for people who aren’t used to eating high-fiber foods very often. With some time, these should go away.

Soaking grains overnight and drinking lots of water can also help get rid of digestive problems. Like all other whole grains, soaking oats helps reduce antinutrients and enzymes that can mess with nutrient absorption and digestion.


  • Are oats gluten-free? Oats do not contain the protein gluten, however most types available in supermarkets are not guaranteed to be gluten-free. Therefore, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten, you need to be careful about looking for those labeled/certified as gluten-free.
  • Commercially sold oats can sometimes be contaminated with gluten if they are mixed with grains like wheat, barley and rye during the growing or manufacturing process. They can potentially contain trace amounts of gluten unless they are certified “gluten free.”

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