To oat or not to oat? Are oats a safe gluten free whole grain? Well, that depends. Pure oats are gluten free, but the risk for cross contamination is high. The only 100% gluten free oats are those marked gluten free, so the average Quaker variety in your grocery store most likely contains gluten. This is because oats are grown in fields side by side wheat and processed in the same plants as wheat. Some batches of oats may have very little cross contamination, but some may have a decent amount of gluten. When purchasing oats, look for gluten free on the label, or find them in the gluten free section of your grocery store.
Oats are considered a cereal whole grain. They are certainly not new on the scene, as they have been a staple food for our Scottish ancestors for centuries. Certified gluten free oats are quite nutritious, as 1 cup packs in 16 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of poly and mono unsaturated fats and iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. The American Heart Association is oats’ biggest cheerleader because of its high amount soluble fiber and its ability to lower cholesterol naturally. The fiber in oats also serves as a nice prebiotic, as it increases healthy gut bacteria and the short chain fatty acids they produce.
The only potential downfall of oats is that like other grains, oats contain phytic acid, which will bind to and prohibit other valuable nutrients like zinc from absorbing into our bodies. Soaking and then rinsing oats for several hours or overnight lowers the amount of phytic acid. I soak all my grains and highly recommend it, as I find I digest whole grains much better after a good soaking. The other potential problem with oats is the protein called avenin. Although it is different from the gluten protein, it is in the same general category, so a handful of gluten sensitive people cannot tolerate oats either. My advice would be to try oats before crossing it off your list of healthy whole grains. If you experience any of the same symptoms as you did with gluten, you will know it isn’t the grain for you.
Oats can be bought as steel cut oats, rolled oats, or instant. They are all from the same grain but are just prepared differently. Steel cut oats are the whole oat chopped into pieces. Rolled oats are steamed and rolled out flat and are probably the most popular form of oats. Instant oats have been steamed, rolled out, and also precooked.
Granola is just one way to enjoy your oats. I love this version because it is seasonal and so fragrant – filling my whole house with that festive scent while baking. Enjoy your granola served over plain Greek yogurt, soaked in almond or coconut milk, or just by itself as a snack.
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- ½ cup cooked pureed pumpkin
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons raw coconut oil
- ½ cup fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
- Add honey, maple syrup, molasses, pumpkin, applesauce, and coconut oil.
- Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and bake for 20 more minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir, and test for desired crunchiness. Return to oven for up to 10 – 15 more minutes if you like a crunchier granola.
- Remove from oven, and stir in cranberries.