Oat milk is quickly becoming one of the more popular plant-based milks for everything from breakfast cereal to baking.
Plant milks made from nuts, seeds, coconut, rice, and soy are largely gluten-free, so you might expect the same from oat milk. However, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, oat milk may not be the best choice.
This article explains whether oat milk is gluten-free.
Many Brands Are Contaminated With Gluten
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley.
While it's safe for most people to eat, it inflames and damages the lining of the small intestine in people with celiac disease and possibly those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Thus, anyone with these conditions must strictly avoid gluten.
Oats are naturally gluten-free. However, because they're often grown near wheat and processed in facilities that also handle wheat products, they're frequently cross-contaminated with gluten.
Thus, oat milk is likewise susceptible to contamination.
A Canadian study in 133 oat samples discovered that 88% were contaminated with more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten — the general cutoff for a food to be considered gluten-free.
When researchers in the United States assessed 78 foods labeled gluten-free, 20.5% had gluten levels over 20 ppm.
Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't analyze foods for gluten content. Instead, it's up to manufacturers to test the products themselves.
Some manufacturers use third-party testing labs to ensure that their products are under the threshold for gluten. These have a certification — usually shown as a small stamp on the packaging — that ensures the product is indeed gluten-free.
If you can't consume gluten, you should only buy oat milk that's certified gluten-free.
Although naturally gluten-free, oats are frequently cross-contaminated with gluten. Therefore, there's a good chance that your oat milk isn't gluten-free unless it's certified as such.
Gluten-Free Oat Milk Options
If you don't have a health reason that requires you to avoid gluten, any kind of oat milk is safe to drink.
However, if you follow a gluten-free diet, you should read labels carefully to find products that are certified gluten-free.
Oatly is one oat milk brand whose U.S. products are certified gluten-free. Planet Oat, Califia Farms, and Elmhurst all state that their oat milk is gluten-free but don't have third-party certification.
Gluten-free oat milk is also easy to make yourself, using only two ingredients — certified gluten-free oats and water. Here's a basic recipe:
- Soak 1 cup (80 grams) of certified gluten-free oats in water — enough to cover them — for about 15 minutes.
- Drain the oats and blend with up to 4 cups (945 mL) of water for about 30 seconds. Use less water if you prefer a thicker beverage.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
- Chill before serving.
Several brands offer gluten-free oat milk. Nonetheless, if you can't find certified products, you can make your own oat milk with certified gluten-free oats and water.
How is Oat Milk Made?
Oat milk is made by soaking whole oats in water, milling the softened mixture, and straining the liquid from the solids. The manufacturer may add other ingredients like sweeteners or vitamins before the drink is homogenized to make it creamy and milk-like.
Oats are a particularly good source of beta glucan, a soluble fiber that gives oat milk its thick consistency and may boost heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Notably, studies suggest that oat beverages have this same effect.
A 1-cup (240-mL) serving of oat milk provides:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
Oat milk is made by soaking and milling oats, then separating the liquid. Oat milk's creamy texture is owed to its beta glucan, a healthy type of soluble fiber.
The Bottom Line
While oats are a gluten-free grain, many are cross-contaminated with gluten — meaning that not all oat milks are gluten-free.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you should only buy oat milk that's certified gluten-free by a third-party organization.
Otherwise, you can make this thick, creamy plant-based milk at home using certified gluten-free oats and water.
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