Oatmeal is a healthy addition to any balanced diet. It’s full of good carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat, as well as antioxidants and fiber. Despite its well-known health benefits, many people wonder, “Is oatmeal gluten-free?”
The experts at The Soulfull Project are here to help!
In this article, we’ll answer the question, “Is oatmeal gluten-free?” and tell you everything you need to know to make an informed decision about oatmeal and the extras you add for flavor.
We’ll also let you in on how you can be a part of The Soulfull Project’s unique community efforts to supply servings of hot cereal — that contains the same healthy oats as oatmeal — to food banks in your area.
What Is Gluten?
Before we get into the issue of whether or not oatmeal is gluten-free, we need to address another important question at the heart of the matter: What is gluten?
Gluten (from the Latin gluten, meaning “to stick”) is the general name for a class of proteins found in four major grains:
- Triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)
Gluten acts as a glue that helps these grains stick together, maintain their shape, and rise when baked.
You’ll notice that we didn’t include some of the more common grains in the list of four above. That’s because these grains — rice, buckwheat, corn, flax, and pure oats — do not contain gluten.
True gluten is only found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (as well as derivative species, such as spelt, khorasan, emmer, and einkorn).
It’s also important to know that fruits, vegetables, and meats don’t contain gluten, either.
Unfortunately, simply avoiding wheat, rye, barley, and triticale doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be eating gluten-free. Many foods made with these grains — sometimes obviously, sometimes not — also contain gluten, including:
- Baked goods
- Sauces (i.e., soy)
- Pre-made hamburgers (gluten as a filler)
- Salad dressings
- Food coloring
One final note on the subject: you may have heard someone refer to the storage proteins in maize, rice, and quinoa as gluten. This isn’t 100% accurate.
While maize and rice do contain storage proteins that help bind them together, these proteins are different from true gluten at a molecular level and generally don’t cause the same health issues.
Conditions Caused By Gluten
Asking, “Is oatmeal gluten-free?” is important because ingesting gluten can trigger some pretty adverse inflammatory, immunological, and autoimmune reactions in some people.
Those who suffer from gluten intolerance (a.k.a. celiac disease), must maintain a strict gluten-free diet or their digestive tract becomes irritated, inflamed, and won’t absorb nutrients correctly.
If this inflammation continues, other symptoms may develop, including chronic fatigue, anemia, and osteoporosis.
Celiac disease is the most severe gluten-related condition, but many people suffer from varying degrees of sensitivity to the protein. Their symptoms may not be as serious, but they may still experience digestive issues after eating or drinking products with gluten.
With that information in mind, let’s talk about the main question: Is oatmeal gluten-free?
Is Oatmeal Gluten-Free?
The good news is that oats are naturally gluten-free. So, oatmeal made with pure oats is gluten-free as well!
The bad news is that producers sometimes process and package oats and oatmeal on the same machines as wheat, rye, and barley. This contaminates the pure oats and introduces gluten into the final product.
Contamination can even occur if farmers grow oats alongside glutinous grains.
To combat this cross-contamination — and to make oatmeal as gluten-free as possible — the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a threshold of 19 parts per million in gluten-free products.
In other words, if you were to sift through one million oat grains, you would only find 19 that contained gluten.
That’s a pretty good ratio! But even with such a low occurrence of glutinous oats, there are still some important factors to keep in mind.
Is Oatmeal Gluten-Free: Consider This
1) More Than Oats
Gluten contamination in the oats themselves isn’t the only thing you have to be aware of when dealing with the question, “Is oatmeal gluten-free?”
You can actually sabotage your efforts — nutritionally speaking, of course — when you add extras to your oatmeal or hot cereal.
Even fruits and vegetables that don’t naturally contain gluten — apples, bananas, zucchini, and spinach, for example — still run the risk of being contaminated by trace amounts of the protein.
Be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables before slicing them up. And if gluten is a real issue for you, always read the label of any product before adding it to your oatmeal.
2) How Sensitive Are You?
As we mentioned earlier, gluten sensitivity levels vary from one person to the next.
You may not suffer from celiac disease, but you might still have trouble if you ingest gluten or a product made with it.
Think of it as an allergic reaction. For some people, dust and pollen cause severe sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and even trouble breathing. For others, the same dust and pollen may only cause dry eyes.
When it comes to gluten, the first group (those with the severe reaction) are the ones who suffer from celiac disease. The second group (those with minor reactions) may only have a slight gluten sensitivity.
3) Oat Intolerance Is Also A Thing
The uncomfortable feeling you get after eating oatmeal — even gluten-free oatmeal — may happen because you suffer from oat intolerance, not gluten intolerance.
All oats contain a protein called avenin. A small percentage of people are allergic to this protein, just as other people are allergic to gluten.
To find out which protein is the one giving you problems, consult a doctor or dietician.
4) Blame It On The Fiber
If you experience bloating and gas after eating oatmeal, try to avoid immediately jumping to the conclusion that you suffer from celiac disease.
It may be the fiber in your oatmeal that’s the issue, not gluten.
Oats contain high amounts of fiber — a beneficial nutrient — and your body may not be used to it at first. It can take time for your digestive system to adapt to the high levels of fiber in oatmeal and hot cereal.
If you think this might be a problem for you, try introducing gluten-free oatmeal into your diet gradually to see how your body reacts.
Look For The Gluten-Free Icon
At The Soulfull Project, we take your health seriously. We make several of our oatmeals and hot cereals with gluten-free oats so you have the option of enjoying amazing nutrition and flavor without the digestive problems.
Our hot cereals also contain other gluten-free grains, such as:
These extras add a delicious and vitamin-packed kick to your morning routine that will help you power through to lunch and beyond.
Look for the gluten-free icon on many of The Soulfull Project’s oatmeals and hot cereals, including:
- Apple Cinnamon Multigrain Hot Cereal
- Brown Sugar Pecan Multigrain Hot Cereal
- Quick Cook Irish Oatmeal Hot Cereal
- Hearty Grains & Seeds Hot Cereal
- Cinnamon Spice Multigrain Hot Cereal- 5 Pack
No matter which gluten-free option you choose, for every serving you purchase — be in it a single-serving cup or in a multipack — we provide the same number of servings of our Four Grain Hot Cereal to a food bank in your area.
For more information on the serving-for-serving program and to check out all of our delicious gluten-free oatmeal and hot cereal flavors, visit TheSoulfullProject.com today.