Are oats gluten free & other questions

I still see people in forums wondering, are oats gluten free? Navigating the world of gluten free eating can be complicated and confusing, so I thought I’d address oats and a few other foods that are commonly confused in the gluten free world. There’s a few on this list that I had no idea about until pretty recently, so hopefully this will help those of you that are relatively new to the world of gluten free eating!

What foods are gluten free?

Are oats gluten free?

The answer is yes and no. Oats are naturally gluten free, but are often subject to cross-contamination from wheat, barley and rye during harvesting, transporting and processing. This study tested 12 commercial brands of oats in 2004 and found that only three were under the 20 parts per million requirement to be “gluten free.”

UPDATE 10/9/2017

If you want to buy oats, be sure you buy a brand that is specifically labeled gluten free AND follows the purity protocol.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats USED TO be a good option. I shared this article on social media over the weekend and received a reply from Johnna (of Johnna’s Kitchen):

She pointed me to an article by Gluten Free Watchdog, which notes that Bob’s Red Mill doesn’t follow the purity protocol (see their statement in the comments section) so their oats may contain up to 19 parts per million of gluten! OH NOES. That same article lists several brands that are following appropriate safety measures to assure the oats are actually gluten free.

Is wheat grass/barley grass gluten free?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is yes! According to Gluten Free Living, wheat (and barley) grasses are safe as long as the grass doesn’t include the seed kernel.

I actually just learned about wheat grass this week after finding a *superfood supplement containing both labeled “gluten free.” I’ve been avoiding it for three years! (It’s still kind of gross, though, so I won’t be rushing out to buy it.)

Is buckwheat gluten free?

Again, the answer is yes. Buckwheat just has a terrible name – in fact, it’s not even a grain! Buckwheat comes from the seeds of a flowering plant.

*Buckwheat has a lot of nutritional benefits and are a good source of fiber, according to Celiac.com. They recommend you look for certified gluten free varieties as buckwheat can also be subject to cross-contamination.

1-2-3 Gluten Free makes a great buckwheat-based pancake mix!

Is rice gluten free?

People are still asking, "are oats gluten free?" I answer this and many other questions about mysterious foods on the gluten free diet.

Rice is safe, but be careful with the soy sauce.

Yes! Rice is naturally gluten free. As long as you’re buying plain, unflavored rice, you should be fine. Be careful of rice pilaf, which can have wheat-based noodles in it. Also beware flavored rice mixes, like Uncle Ben’s – some of them are okay but some contain gluten. Knorr Sides are usually not safe, like this rice pilaf.

I also saw a few bloggers note that they avoid buying rice from bulk containers at the grocery store, because you never know if someone’s used the same scoop for gluten grains, cross-contaminating the bin in the process. This seems like pretty solid advice.

Is soy sauce gluten free?

It depends what country you’re in and how you feel about hydrolyzed wheat. In the United States and United Kingdom, soy sauce typically contains fermented (hydrolyzed wheat). This article on Celiac.com claims that Kikkoman’s regular soy sauce tested below 5 parts per million of gluten. I covered the issue with gluten testing in fermented liquids in this story about gluten free beer – basically the testing method is not proven to be reliable, and not everyone trusts the results.

In Brazil, I noticed soy sauce was gluten free (I looked at several brands in the grocery store.) It varies by country around Europe as well. Your best bet when traveling is to have a card with the gluten words in the local language and double-check the bottle when served. Be extra careful in the UK, where they do trust gluten testing for fermented/hydrolyzed foods and will allow a “gluten free” label as long as the product tests below 20 parts per million of gluten, even if it’s made from wheat.

Kikkoman now makes a really good *gluten free soy sauce, which makes me question the “gluten free” claim about their regular product in the Celiac.com article. Tamari is usually (but not always) gluten free and is often used as a substitute. With this one, always read the label!

Are seasoned fries gluten free?

People are still asking, "are oats gluten free?" I answer this and many other questions about mysterious foods on the gluten free diet.

Gluten alert! Photo: Curly via photopin (license)

I bet you’re thinking, of course – nothing wrong with potatoes, as long as the fryer is clean! Ah, not so fast – wheat flour is sometimes used as a coating with seasoned fries to help the seasoning stick. (I see this a lot with curly fries in particular, but it can happen on any type of frozen potato product.) Restaurants (in the US anyway) have also been picking up on a trend of batter-coating fries – also no good if you’re avoiding gluten.

In the US, Arby’s curly fries contain wheat. In the UK, McCain’s is a very popular brand of frozen chips and potato products. Their seasoned “Southern Fries” contain wheat flour. If you’re in a restaurant, ask questions, and if you’re buying frozen foods at the grocery store, carefully read each label.

I hope this list sets the record straight on confusing gluten foods. I have definitely struggled with all of the foods on this list – I got badly glutened by Quaker Oats in the beginning (cross-contaminated) and glutened several times by soy sauce until I realized it had wheat in it. I also unnecessarily avoided wheat grass and buckwheat until I learned what they were! Hopefully this will help open up some options in your diet and make cooking at home and dining out a little easier.

What foods confused you when you first gave up gluten? Is there anything else you wonder about? Ask me in the comments!

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