Words by Elysha Medhurst
Oats are a big topic of conversation when discussing coeliac disease or a gluten free diet. So the question is, are oats gluten free?
This is a tricky question because there are differing recommendations around the world. Coeliac Australia has a blanket, “no, oats are not a part of a gluten free diet” because there is no test currently available to measure gluten in oats. However, the issue is confused as the food standard codes regarding oats differ from country to country.
Coeliac Australia states the following:
“The term ‘gluten’ is used to collectively describe the parts of grain storage protein (‘prolamins’) from wheat, rye, barley and oats that are toxic to people with coeliac disease. The prolamins from each grain are called something different: Wheat – Gliadin; Barley – Hordein; Rye – Secalin; Oats – Avenin. In people with coeliac disease, ingestion of these prolamins results in an immune reaction.”
“The Australian food standard differs to the regulations in Europe and the USA, where oats can be marketed as ‘gluten free’. More accurately, these ‘gluten free’ oats are the equivalent of oats labelled ‘wheat free’ in Australia, i.e. there is no measurable contamination with wheat, rye or barley.”
As many coeliac sufferers would have discovered, it is possible for there to be zero physical symptoms or effects from a particular food until it has caused unknown damage. Yes, believe it or not, damage can occur even if no physical symptoms are endured.
Amongst your oats research you may have stumbled across the mention of ‘uncontaminated oats.’ Stated by Coeliac Australia, “Evidence shows that uncontaminated oats are well tolerated by most people with coeliac disease. However, in some people with coeliac disease, oat consumption can trigger a potentially harmful immune response.”
An article by the Celiac Disease Foundation states that one in 12 CD patients had activated avenin-specific T cells, or an immunological response, whilst ingesting 100 grams of uncontaminated oats per day in a three-day clinical trial. Although the risk of damage via an autoimmune response is fairly low across those who have coeliac disease, the risk is one Coeliac Australia is not willing to take.
Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the Australian Food Standards Code does not allow products containing oats to have their packaging labelled with ‘gluten free.’
It is recommended by the Coeliac Disease Foundation that if you are willing to try uncontaminated oats as a Coeliac that you do so under the supervision of your physician. So in other words don’t try this at home without permission. However, it should be reiterated that the foundation also stresses that oats are not a part of nor encouraged to be eaten when undergoing a gluten free diet.
Alternatives to oats:
Okay, so it’s looking like oats aren’t really worth the gamble when living a gluten free lifestyle. Still craving a warm bowl of porridge in the morning? Or dreaming about freshly made Anzac cookies? We’ve done a little research on alternative grains to keep those oat cravings at bay.
Gluten Free Alternative Grains
Chia is a great source of protein and contains Omega-3 fatty acids. It is a fabulous alternative to grains and will also help curb those sugar cravings. A seriously tasty brekkie alterative are the ever so addictive Breakfast Chia Seed Puddings. They are a super easy option that you can prepare the night before and wake up and devour. Here are a few seriously delectable (and most importantly gluten free) recipes from yum. Gluten Free!
Vanilla Cinnamon Chia Pot
Blueberry Chia Porridge
Quinoa porridge is a satisfying and filling alternative to oats.
According to the Healthy Chef, “Technically quinoa is not a grain but a seed and is also a complete protein, which means it contains all the 9 essential amino acids that the body needs for repair.”
This alternative is super-charged and nutrient dense addition to your gluten free diet. It’s also a hit of protein with a serving of Omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some tasty quinoa porridge recipes that are guaranteed to start your morning off right.
The Health Chef Quinoa Power Porridge
Kayla Itsines Healthy Quinoa Porridge Recipe
Teff is a naturally gluten free grain that is nutrient-dense for both your body and your microbiome. It is extremely high in fibre, protein, manganese, iron and calcium and a great resistant starch. You can make a tasty porridge with either teff flakes or the teff grain. The Teff Tribe in Australia have delicious, ready to heat teff flake porridge mixes you can buy. They also have some clever teff grain porridge recipe ideas.
Maple Pecan Teff Porridge
Vanilla Teff Porridge
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the Anzac cookies! Here’s a link to an array of incredible Anzac cookie recipes that feature alternative grains that will satisfy your cookie cravings.
Top GF ANZAC Bikkie Recipes
We choose to follow the recommendations by Coeliac Australia and stay away from oats. Yes, even oats that state gluten free and/or non-contaminated that are currently on the market. Although tested oats are considered gluten free in other countries, they may not pass the same test in Australia. Australia has the most stringent gluten free product standard in the world. Australia’s test for gluten free is a maximum of 3 parts per million, making the gluten content non-detectable. In the United States and United Kingdom, the legal limit is up to 20 parts per million. With so many unknowns around this topic, our number one priority is staying healthy and safe when choosing where and what to eat.
If you have other questions like this one, please let us know! Join the yum. Gluten Free Village and send through questions anytime. Click here to sign up today: yumglutenfree.com.au/thevillage