Gluten-free Sam says, are Oats really safe for Coeliacs?
By Gluten-free Sam
The gluten-free diet is not an easy one, and it requires you to learn a great deal about foods, ingredients and even manufacturing methods, especially if you or a loved one suffers from coeliac disease. While wheat, rye and barley are obvious no-nos for the gluten-free, oats are a bit more complicated.
Oats themselves are gluten-free, but most oats are NOT gluten-free unless they have been specially processed in a gluten-free environment. This is because oats tend to be processed alongside wheat (or sometimes barley or rye), and therefore will be cross-contaminated to the point where they will actually contain gluten. Luckily, some companies now produce gluten-free oats in a controlled environment, supposedly a safe alternative for us coeliac disease sufferers to enjoy.
However, this is where it gets complicated. It turns out even pure oats could be harmful to some coeliacs. While wheat contains gluten (a composite of gliadin and glutenin), oats contain avenin, a protein that can trigger similar symptoms to gluten in some avenin-sensitive individuals. Different varieties of oats may also contain different levels of avenin, and thus a definite figure is hard to come by.
More research is needed but it is thought that a minority of coeliacs may be sensitive to avenin, possibly in the range of 5-15%, and this may be higher among the newly-diagnosed population who may still have damage to the small intestine. It is recommended that pure oats are only re-introduced after the body has fully healed on the gluten-free diet: about 6 month to a year after diagnosis, and that this is done in conjunction with a dietician.
If you have been merrily eating gluten-free oats but still have some symptoms, it could be that you are sensitive to avenin. Fear not; should you find yourself in the oat-avoiding club, there are plenty of alternatives to try. Flakes can be made out of rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat or amaranth, all of which can be used to make porridge (or flapjacks – yum!). These can generally be found in health food shops or online. Additionally, Perk!er Foods make an apple, cinnamon and raisin porridge using millet and buckwheat flakes that is gluten and oat-free.
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Honeybuns Plain Flapjack
Made with gluten-free oats, these flapjacks are slowly baked for flavour and texture. The result is the perfect example of what a flapjack should be: chewy, sweet and buttery. Tasted by Gluten-free Sam.
Honeybuns Cranberry & Pecan Flapjack
Built on the same wonderfully buttery base as their plain flapjacks, the addition of cranberries and pecans makes for a more sophisticated flapjack choice. Tasted by Gluten-free Sam.