Ask Niki: Gluten-free oats
Q: "I have a question regarding your Gluten-free soda bread recipe (HFG April 2012). My understanding is that we are unable to buy gluten-free oats in New Zealand and as this recipe uses oats, I am unable to make it gluten-free. Or is there something that I don’t know about oats? My understanding has always been that oats are not gluten-free."
A: Oats are a complicated topic when it comes to gluten-free eating! This is made more so by the fact that there is differing advice in different countries. In the UK for example, people with coeliac disease are often advised oats are fine to eat.
In New Zealand, the advice is for coeliacs to not eat oats.
Oats themselves do not contain the same gluten-containing proteins as wheat, barley or rye. However, oats are still not recommended for people with coeliac disease, for a couple of reasons. Oats contain a gluten-like compound called avenin which can be harmful for some coeliacs. There’s no way of knowing if you are someone who will have a reaction without doing a specific gastroscopy/biopsy before eating oats, and after you have been eating them for a while.
For people who do not have coeliac disease, but are following a gluten-free diet for other reasons, oats may be OK to eat. What is tricky with oats, however, is many oats on the market may be contaminated by other grains such as wheat.
If you are eating a low-gluten diet, regular oats are likely to be fine for you. There are now also ‘wheat-free oats’ available (look for the Bob’s Red Mill brand) which are guaranteed not to have wheat contamination.
Note: To avoid confusion, we have now updated our Gluten-free soda bread recipe to be oat-free.