In short… by default, I would say yes. But it’s a little more complicated than that.
Studies suggest that about 95% of gluten intolerance patients can tolerate oats. Technically, there is no gluten in oats. In fact, oats are more like rice than wheat, and rice is one of the few things allowed on the highly restrictive Gluten Contamination Elimination Diet. However, about 2% of celiac disease patients will experience cross-reactivity with avenin, a protein in oats. About 3% to 5% of individuals with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) may experience a cross reaction.
More often than not oats must be avoided when subscribing to a gluten-free diet because of the way they are harvested and processed. A vast majority of oats sold in the United States and Europe are cross-contaminated with wheat or barley during their harvesting and processing.
Certified gluten-free oats exist on the market now. Companies like Bob’s Red Mill offer a variety of gluten-free oats, from steel cut oats to quick cooking oats and even oat flour, which is great for gluten-free baking if you can tolerate oats.
If you have been avoiding oats for a while, don’t suddenly splurge. There is still that 5% chance a person sensitive to gluten could be sensitive to oats (about 2% for people with celiac disease), so only consider integrating oats into your diet with medical supervision or while consulting with your dietitian.
And even then, slowly introduce them into your diet to see if you have a negative reaction to them. I recommend both monitoring symptoms and ordering blood work after you’ve been consuming oats for four to six weeks to make sure eating oat-containing food doesn’t trigger antibodies to quietly course your veins.
This is a difficult and sometimes controversial topic. While oats can provide nutritional diversity and many doctors and dietitians prefer celiac patients to try integrating some into their diet, they aren’t necessary in many cases. If you prefer to play it safe and avoid oats, that’s fine, just make sure you get plenty of fiber and eat a wide variety of vegetables on your gluten-free diet.