Oats are often cited as one of the healthiest breakfast options around the world. They are a rich source of fiber and many other nutrients many are confused about what particularly makes oats different from other cereal grains.
One of the most common questions raised about oats and their consumption of whether they are gluten-free and fit for someone with gluten-sensitivity or Celiac disease, both of which are becoming increasingly common today.
Some people choose to give up oats entirely without even knowing their nutritional value or exploring whether they can be taken by someone who is not allowed to have gluten.
So, are oats healthy?
Are oats are a good choice or do they cause negative impacts on the health such as indigestion, gluten sensitivity, fatigue, and other complications similar to the ones caused by refined grains? This question is commonly raised by many.
In accordance with the research conducted by University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center on the consumption of oats, people with the autoimmune disease or gluten-sensitivity can have oats in their diet as they technically do not contain the protein.
Oats do not belong to the three groups of wheat, barley, and rice which naturally contain gluten. They are different and contain another protein called avenins instead of gluten which makes it a safe option for people who want to avoid gluten.
In addition, oats are much easier for most of the people to digest and are highly unlikely to cause negative effects on health. In light of the latest research, only around 1% of the people having Celiac show reactions to oats and that too only when they are in a very high amount in their diet.
If you are considering cutting gluten out of your diet due to Celiac, gluten-sensitivity or allergy, you do not need to leave oats if you are sure about how they were processed and manufactured – the two main reasons why the answer to whether oats are gluten-free or not becomes complicated.
Why does how oats are grown matter?
In the majority of the cases, oats are grown on the very same land or in rotation with the crops that naturally contain gluten such as rye, barley, and wheat. It is possible for these gluten-containing crops to make their way and grow inside the oat crops.
This can happen especially if a gluten-containing crop was grown a year before the oats on the same land. This causes the oat crops to become contaminated with the gluten in the wheat, rye, and barley crops.
Therefore, it is possible for oats to contain gluten especially when this happens. Store-bought oats can especially have a higher risk of containing traces of gluten.
Read more on gluten contamination in oats here.
Secondly, oats are also commonly processed in the facilities that are responsible for handling gluten-containing crops, mostly wheat. So, there is also a chance for the oats to become contaminated with gluten during their procession.
After being harvested and cleaned, those oats are brought to be packaged at any of the connected facilities. During the packaging, there is also a chance of rye or wheat getting mixed up with the oats.
The greater danger of contamination comes from using the same equipment for gluten-containing crops and oats where there is also a higher chance of contamination. Therefore, someone with Celiac or gluten-sensitivity should be aware of cross-contamination while buying oats.
What can you do in this situation? Are organic options safer?
The organic labeling on foods does not typically guarantee whether the food is safe or not and in this case, it certainly does not guarantee that the oats will be gluten-free and safe from cross-contamination on fields or packaging.
What you can do is look for oats that are certified gluten-free and come from a brand or provider that ensures that there has not been any cross-contamination with gluten-containing crops. This is the only way to be sure of whether the oats are free from traces of gluten or not.
Some of the people might ask if they oats are certified gluten-free, why do they cause bloating, stomachache, and diarrhea in some cases. In most of the cases, this is because oats have a high amount of fiber.
People who are not used to eating a high amount of fiber can have minor issues such as pain in the stomach. If you continue to eat them, the stomach will get used to it and you will no longer face such problems.
A faster solution to this is soaking oats overnight as it helps reduce the anti-nutrients and enzymes that affect the digestive system in them. Remember to also consume lots of water as it can also help with minor reactions to oats.
Oats are generally good for health and are fit for consumption for almost everyone as they improve digestion, are a good source of fiber and protein, reduce bad cholesterol or LDL, have a low glycemic score in comparison with other grains, provide essential minerals, and increase immunity.