Oats are naturally gluten-free, but often get contaminated with gluten from other grains.
This article explores whether you should include oats in a gluten-free diet.
What's the Problem With Gluten?
Gluten-free diets are very popular.
However, many of those who avoid gluten don't even really know what it is.
Unfortunately, these proteins can cause serious health problems for certain people.
If you have celiac disease, your body launches an autoimmune response to gluten, damaging the lining of the intestine. In wheat allergy, the immune system overreacts to the presence of wheat proteins (5).
It should be noted that most people can eat gluten without any problems.
For more details about the protein gluten, read this article.
Bottom Line: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Most people can tolerate it, but it can cause serious health issues for some individuals.
Are Oats Gluten-Free?
The truth is that pure oats are gluten-free and safe for most people with gluten intolerance.
However, oats are often contaminated with gluten because they may be processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley.
Additionally, a few studies found that celiac disease patients in countries that recommended including oats in a gluten-free diet had better intestinal healing than patients in countries that did not (10, 15).
Since pure oats are gluten-free, they're usually safe for people with a wheat allergy as long as they're not contaminated with wheat.
Bottom Line: Most people who are gluten intolerant can safely eat pure oats. This includes people with celiac disease.
Oats are Often Contaminated with Gluten
Although oats themselves don't contain gluten, they're often grown alongside other crops.
The same equipment is typically used to harvest crops in neighboring fields, which leads to cross-contamination if one of those crops contains gluten.
Products made with oats are also usually processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing products and are prepared and packaged with the same equipment.
That may not sound like a lot, but just 20 ppm of gluten may be enough to cause a reaction in someone with celiac disease (16).
This high risk of contamination means it's not safe to include conventionally grown and processed oats in a strict gluten-free diet.
For this reason, a number of companies have begun to grow and process oats with designated gluten-free fields and equipment. These oats can then be marketed as gluten-free and must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten (20, 21).
Unfortunately, even gluten-free labels may not be 100 percent reliable. One study found that only 95 percent of products labeled gluten-free actually had safe levels.
Bottom Line: Oats are often contaminated with gluten during growing or processing, but many companies are now producing uncontaminated oats.
Oats Contain a Protein Called Avenin, Which May Cause Problems for Some People
Even with contamination ruled out, a small number of people with celiac disease (and possibly other conditions) will still not be able to tolerate pure oats.
Pure oats contain a protein called avenin, which may cause problems because it has a similar amino acid structure as gluten.
The majority of people who are sensitive to gluten do not react to avenin. They can eat pure, uncontaminated oats with no problems (23).
One study investigating celiac disease and oat consumption found that most people had the potential to react to avenin. However, only 8 percent of the participants had an actual response after consuming a large amount of oats (25).
In those cases, the response was small and did not cause clinical symptoms or relapse. Therefore, the researchers concluded that it was still safe for those patients to consume up to 100 grams of pure oats per day (25).
Additionally, two other small studies found that some people with celiac disease experienced a small immune response and more intestinal symptoms when consuming oats, compared to those on a traditional gluten-free diet (26, 27).
Bottom Line: Oats contain a protein called avenin. A small percentage of people with celiac disease react to avenin and can't tolerate pure oats.
Oats Have Many Health Benefits
Gluten-free diets are often limited when it comes to food choices, especially with grains and starchy foods.
Including oats and products like oatmeal or healthy granola bars can add much-needed variety.
Several studies have also shown that following a gluten-free diet frequently results in an inadequate intake of fiber, B vitamins, folate and minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, manganese and zinc (10, 28, 29, 30).
Oats happen to be a good source of all of these vitamins and minerals. They're also a fantastic source of fiber.
Additionally, oats provide several impressive health benefits:
- Heart disease: Oats can help improve risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering “bad" LDL-cholesterol and raising “good" HDL-cholesterol (31).
- Weight loss: Oats and oatmeal can aid in weight loss by helping to control appetite and increase fullness (32, 33, 34).
- Diabetes: Oats can help improve blood sugar control, blood fat levels and insulin sensitivity for people with type 2 diabetes (35).
Bottom Line: Oats are a good source of many nutrients that are lacking in a gluten-free diet. They can also add variety and provide health benefits.
Should You Include Oats in a Gluten-Free Diet?
There are many benefits to including oats in a gluten-free diet.
Oats are used in many gluten-free products and oat flour is popular in gluten-free baking. Oatmeal is also a breakfast favorite for many people.
However, it's important to buy only oats and oat products that are labeled or certified as gluten-free. This ensures the oats are pure and uncontaminated.
These days, it's easy to buy pure oats in many grocery stores and online.
Good brands to look for include Bob's Red Mill and Glutenfreeda, which are both independently tested for gluten contamination.
The decision to include oats should be made on an individual basis.
Since it's not possible to know who may react to avenin, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian/nutritionist before adding oats to a gluten-free diet.
However, the vast majority of people can safely enjoy oats and all of the delicious foods made with them.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
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(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
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