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Oats and the Gluten-Free Diet

Posted Jan 19 2009 10:41pm

To those of us who must live gluten-free, the possibility of adding oats to our list of “safe” grains has been big news. A few years back, several scientific studies determined that, in fact, oats themselves are gluten-free. The problem had historically been the cross-contamination of oats with gluten-containing grains like wheat. The growing, harvesting and milling of oats had long been done in close contact with other glutinous grains, and had skewed the diagnostic testing of reactions to oat products by gluten-sensitive and celiac individuals.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 1999, oats were one of the four grains I was told to strictly avoid (wheat, barley, rye and oats). When these studies later came out, and when reputable organizations like the American Dietetic Association began to acknowledge the possibility of integrating oats into the celiac diet, I was overjoyed! The nutritional benefits oats offer – like adding beneficial dietary fiber and protein – combined with the opportunity to enjoy comfort foods like oatmeal again, made me leap to try them again for myself.

For a celiac, the first step toward integrating oats into your diet is to consult with your gastroenterologist or physician to ensure that you have achieved full resolution of all symptoms and a normal tissue transglutaminase level (IgA tTG). As of now, the recommended daily intake of uncontaminated oats for celiacs is still limited, at ¼ cup for children and approximately ½ - ¾ cup for adults. The additional and crucial caveat being that any oats for celiacs must be certified gluten-free, and thus contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten.

Only a few mills and processing plants have achieved this certification status(see the Gluten-Free Certification Organization “GFCO” for a list of certified manufacturers, http://www.gfco.org/ ), but every day it is becoming easier to find these oats on-line and in brick and mortar stores. Manufacturers like Gifts of Nature ( http://www.giftsofnature.net/Products.asp ), Lara's ( http://www.creamhillestates.com/en_order.php ) and even Bob's Red Mill ( http://www.bobsredmill.com/home.php?cat=123 ) have all introduced certified gluten-free oats.

If you are ready to dive back into a big bowl of oatmeal or once again savor an oatmeal cookie like mama used to make, go grab yourself some of these gluten-free oats! I have been enjoying Gifts of Nature oats in many recipes recently, but my most favorite has to be the oatmeal-raisin cookie! Talk about bringing back a flavor of childhood! (If only I still had the metabolism of a child!) I've posted my recipe in this Wellsphere blog: it produces moist, chewy, cinnamon-y cookies that are hard to turn down. I've offered a dairy-free and even egg-free option in the recipe as well, so there are even more reasons to try it!

Just as an aside for those of you who find you are unable or unwilling to give gluten-free oats a go, I recently found an oat substitute in the U.S. that I had been looking for since a trip to Europe several years ago. I think this product could make a mean oatmeal cookie: rice flakes. On one of my European adventures many years ago, I became somewhat addicted to German muesli made with rice flakes, but I had since been unsuccessful finding them Stateside. Shiloh Farms has now brought these rice flakes to local markets and on-line http://www.shilohfarms.com/productDetails.php?navid=151&itemNumber=191315.

If you would like to learn more about integrating oats into a gluten-free diet, check out Chapter 3, “ What Exactly is Gluten and Why Doesn't it Like Me?,” The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free (Jules E. Dowler Shepard, Da Capo 2008).

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