Ask Shelley Case: The Scoop on Gluten-Free Oats

Question: Are oats allowed on a gluten-free diet? 

Historically, oats were not allowed on a gluten-free diet for those with celiac disease. The avenin protein in oats was thought to cause the same reaction as the proteins in the gluten-containing grains wheat, rye and barley.  However, many studies over the past 15 years have revealed that moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats are tolerated by the majority of individuals with celiac disease.  It should be noted that a small number of individuals with celiac disease may not tolerate pure, uncontaminated oats. The mechanism triggering this intolerance has not yet been identified. So it is important to check with your doctor and dietitian before adding pure, uncontaminated oats to your gluten-free diet.

To learn more about the safety of oats in celiac disease, read the extensive review by Health Canada.

Remember… Not all oats are gluten-free:
Many commercial oat products on the market are cross-contaminated with wheat, rye and/or barley during harvesting, transportation, storage, milling, processing and packaging. An American study by dietitian Tricia Thompson tested three brands of commercially available oats and found varying levels of gluten contamination. Similar results were reported in two other studies by Hernando and Gelinas. Cross contamination has been the major reason why most health professionals and celiac groups have not allowed oats on a gluten-free diet. Fortunately there are companies in the USA and Canada that produce pure, uncontaminated oats on dedicated fields with dedicated equipment and processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities. The major specialty gluten-free oat companies include:


In addition to the above producers, many companies are adding gluten-free oats to their products in items such as granola, snack bars, muffins and breads.  Look for the words on the package label – “gluten-free oats”, “pure, uncontaminated oats”, or “certified gluten-free oats”. Also, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) does certify a number of companies producing and/or including gluten-free oats in various products. The GFCO symbol will be located on the package. The Canadian Celiac Association will be launching a new certification program for pure, uncontaminated oats in early 2010. Products meeting the certification will have the trademark “PAVENA™” on the food label.

Authorities approve oats:
Many health professionals, celiac organizations, celiac research centers and other associations around the world allow consumption of moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated oats. I have included a detailed listing of the position statements from these organizations in my book Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.

The Canadian Celiac Association Professional Advisory Board has developed guidelines for the introduction of pure, uncontaminated oats in the gluten-free diet for those with celiac disease.  

Oat’s nutritional value:
A nutritious whole grain, oats are a good source of protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins.  Oats contain two kinds of fiber- soluble and insoluble. The soluble fiber (ß-glucan) can help lower cholesterol and control blood glucose levels. Insoluble fiber promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. As many gluten-free products are frequently made with refined flours and starches and are low in iron, B vitamins and dietary fiber, oats are a healthy addition to the diet.

Where to find Oat recipes:
Gluten-free oats are available as whole oat groats, oatmeal, oat flour and oat bran. They can be incorporated into many recipes. has many gluten-free oat recipes including Oatmeal M&M Cookies and Orange Oatmeal Granola Trail Mix. Cream Hill Estates also has a great recipe for Muesli Cereal.


Shelley Case, RD
Consulting Dietitian, Speaker and Author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide

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7 Responses to “Ask Shelley Case: The Scoop on Gluten-Free Oats”

  1. Sandra Rieser Says:

    I will not eat them and I find it irresponsible to now widely distribute them in so many Gluten-Free foods. My pre-diagnosis reaction to oats was far more severe, if you can imagine than even to wheat, which came close to killing me. The article above does point out some of us should not eat the “new” form of oats and I have read quite a bit about even for those who do, they should do so sparingly and not very often. I see no advantage to putting Celiacs at any risk, especially those of us who have remained well for so many years by avoiding them entirely.

  2. Kathleen Reale Says:


    Thanks for your comment. There are many celiacs that are unable to tolerate oats, that is why Shelley Case pointed out in the above post that everyone should check with their doctor before trying even a limited amount of certified GF oats.

    Your comment does reinforce that everyone needs to make their own choice or not, to consume even moderate amounts of gluten-free oats – regardless of what doctors, or health organizations suggest or give as guidelines.

    Be Free!

  3. Kelly Purcell Says:

    I have to agree with Sandra R. Before I was diagnosed with CD, all I was eating was oatmeal and that was what put me in the hospital as well. I have tried all kinds of oats and still get the same reaction. If they don’t know for sure, I think they should not be telling people to go ahead and eat it!

  4. Kim Nixon Says:

    I miss my oats. But cannot tolerate them at this time. Diagnosed Gluten Intolerant Jan 13, 2010. Had my biopsy today.

  5. Sandra Rieser Says:

    Kim, you are so right, tread very lightly in the beginning, your villi are most likely heavily damaged from the years of abuse and it takes a while being totally Gluten Free to get to the really healthy, feel great stage, but it will come. Rice is the most benign, so I’d say stick with rice and rice flour based things for now and trust the thousands of us that it isn’t really a hard life once you know what you need to and discover all the wonderful goodies you CAN eat. Best of luck.

  6. Diane Says:

    I have a question I Hope someone can answer for me. My husband and I have been gluten free for sefveral months now. I would like to make my rhubarb crisp as usual this spring but am wondering if anyone can tell me what to use as a substitute for oats. His sister has been gltuen free for 10 years now and still does not tolerate oats, so I feel that I shouldn’t risk using oats this early on for fear of a bad reaction in my husband. Any suggestions?

  7. Shelley Case, RD Says:

    I would highly recommend getting a copy of Carol Fenster’s 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes cookbook – see She has many recipes for fruit crisps using various toppings that include:

    1. Carol’s GF flour blend, brown sugar, white sugar, butter and chopped walnuts.
    2. Same as above plus yellow cornmeal.
    3. Carol’s GF flour blend, soy flakes, brown and white sugar, butter, sliced almonds

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