Granola is a favorite snack or morning meal for many, and it usually contains a limited list of ingredients. Because grains are always a point of contention for gluten-free diets, it’s no surprise that people question how safe granola is for a gluten-free diet.
Granola is not usually gluten-free. While pure oats are naturally gluten-free, the way these oats are farmed, transported, and stored often leads to cross contamination with wheat, barley, or rye. Manufacturers should disclose this on the granola label.
Keep reading as we look at the different ingredients and variations of granola and how they play into a gluten-free diet. We’ll also look at how different sources affect the gluten-free status, how granola interacts with different dietary constraints, and how you can make sure your granola is truly gluten-free.
Granola and Gluten Explained
Granola is difficult to place because the recipe is so easily and often manipulated. At its core, granola contains oats and other flavorings or spices to create a certain taste. This makes it a quick and easy choice for breakfast or snacking, but it also muddles up any informed decisions regarding your diet.
If you are on a gluten-free diet, it is important to pay attention to the ingredients and variations of granola, even within a certain brand. The slightest changes can make a world of difference, as well as sourcing and other details often outlined on the label.
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Granola usually involves oats, nuts, spices, and a sweetener, even at its most basic level. The ingredients may look like:
- Whole grain oats
- Sugar (or brown sugar)
- Canola oil
- Rice starch
- Soy lecithin
- Baking soda
Most granola mixes contain other flavorings, such as nuts, coconut chips, dried fruit, or honey. None of the ingredients listed above contain gluten naturally, but cross-contamination is a major problem with oats.
The more you process and add to an ingredient, the higher the chances of cross-contamination are. Simpler granola recipes are less likely to include gluten-containing ingredients, and there is a lower risk of contamination.
Even when you work with different granolas in the same brand, you need to pay attention to the label. One gluten-free granola formula does not mean that every variation is gluten-free, and different products may contain different levels of cross-contamination.
A gluten-free label is always nice to see, but anyone with sensitive allergies should proceed with caution until they are sure the granola does not upset their body.
When is Granola Gluten-Free?
There are a few ways to make sure your granola is gluten-free.
The most straightforward is by looking for the gluten-free label on the packaging. Food companies can only make this claim when their granola is verified to contain less than 20 ppm of gluten.
This does not rule out trace amounts, but it is a great starting place and you don’t need to do too much digging to verify the information.
This should also shine a light on any granola brands that may contain gluten or pose a threat through cross-contamination. Many companies highlight gluten containing ingredients (such as whole wheat) or indicate the possibility of cross contamination in the fields, while harvesting, or while processing the granola.
Gluten-Free Granola Brands
These brands explicitly list their granola as gluten-free:
- Julie’s Real
- Jessica’s Natural Foods
- Bob’s Red Mill
- Bakery On Main
- Erin Baker’s
- Lark Ellen Farm
- Thrive Market
- Purely Elizabeth
- One Degree
- Nature’s Path
- Bear Naked
Because formulas and ingredient sourcing are open to changes, make sure you verify gluten-free status often. Before you commit to a specific brand or formula, you want to ensure it isn’t an exception to this list.
Store Bought vs. Homemade
Making your own granola is one way to make sure it is gluten-free. This is the best choice for anyone with a more severe allergy or those who want to stay as close to the root form of food as possible. If you’re making other foods that contain oats, this is a quick and easy way to capitalize on gluten-free certainty.
Making your own granola at home prevents you from relying on a manufacturer’s sourcing constraints, and there is little limit on the specific flavors and blends of your granola. You can make as much or as little as you need, and you can ratio the ingredients as needed to make the perfect snack.
The biggest issue with making your own gluten-free granola is sourcing oats that are not cross-contaminated. Look for brands like Quaker Oats or Bob’s Red Mill that have gluten-free specific old-fashioned oats.
You should also verify the gluten-free status of any other ingredients in your homemade granola, including:
Most of these are naturally gluten-free, so cross contamination is the main concern.
Granola and Other Diets
A gluten-free diet is difficult enough to navigate, but it gets more complicated when you have additional restrictions. Whether these are deemed necessary or self-imposed, understanding how granola works with other diets is important in determining if and how it fits into your life.
While the list of truly gluten-free granola brands is a short one, it can get even shorter when you require a snack free of dairy. Some brands and formulas contain butter, milk protein, or supplements that can upset a dairy-free diet.
This is less likely with plain granola, but it is still important to check the ingredients list for any sign of an issue.
Vegan or Vegetarian
Aside from dairy, the main issue with granola and vegan or vegetarian diets is the use of honey as a sweetener. This violates most of these diets, and it can knock many brands off your list of possible granola sources.
Look for granola that uses maple syrup or another plant-based sweetener. If you have issues, you can look for unsweetened granola and add your own. You can also revert back to mixing your own granola at home.
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While granola oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often cross-contaminated beyond a safe level of consumption. You should only trust granola that explicitly claims gluten-free verification, and even then you should move forward with caution.
Making granola at home is not complicated, and you can create a mix that suits your needs and tastes perfectly. It comes down to how convenient this is for you and how you feel about trusting gluten-free claims from certain granola brands.