- What's really in oats? Oats and oat-based cereals are healthful sources of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, particularly when the whole grain is used. The fiber includes beta-glucan, which can help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. However, in the past, some oat-based cereals have been found to be contaminated with ochratoxin A, a potential carcinogen and kidney toxin. (See Background). ConsumerLab.com tested oat-based cereals to find out whether they exceeded contamination limits for this toxin. (See What CL Tested For).
- Do oats contain gluten? Although oats don't naturally contain gluten, oat cereals may become cross-contaminated with gluten from wheat products during processing, a potential concern for some people. ConsumerLab.com tested products against the FDA standard for "gluten-free," as well as its own, more stringent "ultra gluten-free" standard (See What CL Tested For).
- Which oats are best for gluten-free diets? Although none of the cereals contained ochratoxin A at a level of concern to adults or older children, testing of one product indicated that it may be best to limit its use by small children. Significant amounts of gluten were found in some products (as much as 95 ppm of gluten). Products labeled "gluten-free" met the FDA standard (no more than 20 ppm of gluten) but not necessarily CL's ultra gluten-free standard (5 ppm) (See What CL Found).
- Which are the best oats overall? ConsumerLab.com compared products on quality and cost for each category of cereal (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, oat bran, etc.) to come up with its Top Picks.
- Cautions with oats and oat bran: Although the oat products tested appear to be generally safe, levels of ochratoxin A may vary over time: be particularly cautious with oat bran products. If you have celiac disease, be aware that some oat cereals contain high amounts of gluten, although this is much less likely if a product is labeled as gluten-free (See Concerns and Cautions).