Is granola OK for celiac?

Quick Answer

Most granola contains gluten and is not suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, there are some gluten-free granola options made with gluten-free oats and other gluten-free ingredients that are safe for celiacs to eat. When selecting granola, it’s important to check the label for a “gluten-free” certification and inspect the ingredients list to ensure no gluten sources are included.

What is Granola?

Granola is a breakfast food and snack made from rolled oats, nuts, seeds, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice or wheat cereals. It has a toasted, crunchy texture and is often combined with yogurt or milk. Some of the most common ingredients in conventional granola include:

– Rolled oats – contain gluten
– Wheat germ or bran – contain gluten
– Barley malt – contains gluten
– Brown rice syrup or honey – gluten-free
– Nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts – gluten-free
– Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia – gluten-free
– Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, apricots – gluten-free
– Oil like canola or olive oil – gluten-free
– Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger – gluten-free

So you can see that traditional granola relies heavily on oats and sometimes wheat products to achieve its signature toasted, clustered texture. This makes most conventional granola unsuitable for a gluten-free diet.

Gluten Content in Granola

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It provides the elasticity and chewiness that allows bread to rise properly and gives baked goods their desirable texture. Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are often contaminated with gluten because they are processed alongside gluten-containing grains.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten because it damages the small intestine and triggers an autoimmune reaction. Even tiny amounts of gluten in the parts per million range can cause issues for those with celiac. This makes assessing the gluten content of foods like granola extremely important.

Most popular granola brands and homemade granola recipes include gluten-containing ingredients like:

– Rolled oats – May be contaminated with gluten
– Wheat germ – Contains gluten
– Barley malt – Contains gluten
– Wheat bran – Contains gluten
– Cereals containing wheat, barley, rye – Contain gluten
– Cookie crumbs – Often contain gluten
– Malt extract – Usually derived from barley and contains gluten

Unless the granola is specifically labeled “gluten-free”, it likely contains gluten from one of these sources. Even granola made with “gluten-free oats” could be subject to cross-contamination if it’s processed on shared equipment with gluten products.

Checking for a third-party “gluten-free” certification from organizations like GFCO (Gluten-Free Certification Organization) is the best way to verify the gluten-free status of a granola product. You should also scrutinize the ingredients list and look for obvious gluten-containing grains.

Gluten Thresholds for Celiac Disease

For people with celiac disease, even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger intestinal damage and other symptoms. But how little gluten can be safely tolerated?

There is no universal consensus on a “safe” threshold of gluten consumption for celiac patients. However, most experts agree that celiacs should stay under 10-50 mg per day to manage their condition successfully. Going above this level repeatedly could lead to injury to the small intestine lining and nutrient deficiencies.

Here are some general guidelines on gluten thresholds for people with celiac:

– 20 parts per million (ppm) or less – Recommended threshold for “gluten-free” labeling in many countries, including the U.S. Most celiacs can safely consume food below this level daily without intestinal damage.

– 10-50 mg per day – Upper limit range suggested by most experts for celiacs to stay asymptomatic and healthy. This equals about 50-100 ppm across a day’s meals.

– 50-100 ppm – Can cause symptoms or even intestinal damage in the most sensitive celiac patients if consumed regularly

– Over 100 ppm – Almost certainly unsafe for daily consumption for those with celiac disease. Would cause damage and trigger immune reaction.

Keep in mind that every person has a different tolerance, so these numbers serve as rough guidelines. Some celiacs feel their best sticking to just 5-10 mg per day long-term. The key is finding your own personal threshhold by monitoring symptoms and small intestine health through periodic biopsy.

Is Oatmeal Gluten-Free?

Oatmeal is commonly found in granola, so it’s important to determine if oats are safe for the gluten-free diet.

Oats themselves do not naturally contain gluten. However, most commercially grown oats are cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains like wheat and barley during growing and processing.

In the United States, oats can still be labeled “gluten-free” if they contain less than 20 ppm of gluten from cross-contamination. Even oats labeled “gluten-free” may hover right around this 20 ppm threshold.

Whether oats are safe for celiacs is controversial. Some can tolerate oats, while others report intestinal damage and symptoms from eating oats labeled gluten-free. Factors that affect oat tolerance include:

– **Purity** – Oats with higher levels of contamination are more likely to cause issues
– **Individual sensitivity** – More sensitive celiacs may react to lower amounts of gluten
– **Frequency/serving size** – The more oats consumed, the greater risk for problems

To exercise caution, many celiacs avoid oats or only eat small amounts occasionally. Talk to your doctor about whether certified gluten-free oats may be an option for you. Be sure to monitor symptoms and intestine health closely if you decide to eat oats.

Finding Truly Gluten-Free Granola

When you have celiac disease, finding truly gluten-free granola can be tricky. Here are some tips:

– **Stick to certified products** – Look for granola certified gluten-free by GFCO, NSF, or another reputable organization. This provides 3rd party verification.

– **Read labels carefully** – Check that the granola doesn’t contain any ingredients derived from wheat, rye, barley. Watch out for malt extract, which usually comes from barley.

– **Call the company** – If you have any doubt about ingredients or processing, call the manufacturer to ask about testing and protocols.

– **Avoid oats** – Unless you know you tolerate oats well, steer clear of oat-based granolas to be extra cautious.

– **Try online brands** – Several smaller brands selling certified gluten-free granola online cater to the celiac community.

– **Make your own** – Find a gluten-free recipe and prepare your own granola at home using certified ingredients.

– **Beware bulk bins** – Never scoop granola from unpackaged bulk bins, as cross-contamination is likely. Stick to packaged products.

With some label reading and research, finding celiac-safe granola is possible. Being an informed consumer helps minimize the risks when selecting commercially prepared granola.

Gluten-Free Granolas to Try

Here are some recommended granola brands and products reported to be gluten-free by celiacs:

Brand Product Key Notes
Cascadian Farm Organic Peanut Butter Granola Certified GF; made with rice cereal
Nature’s Path Love Crunch Granolas Certified GF; several nut/seed varieties
Sunbelt Bakery Coconut Almond Granola Certified GF; coconut flakes, almonds
Kind Cinnamon Oat Clusters Certified GF; made with gluten-free oats
Kinnikinnick Vanilla Almond Granola Certified GF; free of grains
Bob’s Red Mill Honey Nut Granola Certified GF; made with GF oats

These are just a few examples of gluten-free granolas enjoyed by celiacs. Always be sure to check labels for the official gluten-free certification before purchasing any product. It’s also a good idea to periodically check with manufacturers in case ingredients or processes change.

Making Your Own Celiac-Friendly Granola

For the most control over ingredients, consider making your own custom granola at home. Here is a simple recipe to try:

Gluten-Free Granola Recipe

Dry ingredients:

– 3 cups certified gluten-free rolled oats

– 1 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped

– 1 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped

– 1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds

– 1⁄2 cup sunflower seeds

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1⁄4 tsp ground nutmeg

– 1⁄2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:

– 1⁄3 cup coconut oil, melted

– 1⁄3 cup honey

– 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 300°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.

3. In a separate small bowl, stir together coconut oil, honey, and vanilla.

4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well, until everything is evenly coated.

5. Spread granola mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

6. Let cool completely before eating or storing in an airtight container.

For added texture, try mixing in gluten-free cereals like puffed rice or quinoa after baking. The possibilities are endless with homemade granola!

Precautions When Eating Out

Granola and cereal are common breakfast items at restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops. But exercise caution when eating granola away from home, as cross-contamination poses a high risk.

Here are some tips for safely consuming granola when dining out with celiac disease:

– Ask about dedicated gluten-free preparation areas and protocols to prevent cross-contact. Avoid places that seem clueless about celiac needs.

– Stick to sealed packages of branded gluten-free granola to reduce risk. Avoid bulk bins and in-house granola mixes that likely contain gluten.

– Request a fresh bowl and utensils to avoid any residual gluten left by other customers.

– Ask to inspect ingredient labels if provided on-site, even for branded products. Manufacturers sometimes change formulas.

– Check items like yogurt and milk to ensure they are also gluten-free. Some brands add wheat-based thickeners and stabilizers.

– Specify that you need “celiac-safe” preparation to reinforce awareness of your high sensitivity level.

Being upfront with staff and asking the right questions helps instill confidence when ordering granola away from the safety of your own kitchen.

Effects of Accidental Gluten Exposure

If you inadvertently eat granola that contains gluten, here’s what may happen:

**Short-term effects:**
– Digestive upset like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain
– Diarrhea or constipation
– Fatigue, headaches, “brain fog”, anxiety
– Skin rashes, mouth sores, joint pain
– For children, crankiness, poor focus, behavioral issues

**Long-term effects:**
– Damage to small intestine villi and decreased ability to absorb nutrients
– Iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and other malnutrition issues
– Increased risk for other autoimmune disorders
– Increased risk for cancers like intestinal lymphoma
– Failure to grow and thrive (in children)
– Continued fatigue, pain, anxiety, and depression

The severity and types of symptoms experienced depend on the person and amount of gluten exposure. Some celiacs react strongly right away, while others take days to feel impacts or show changes in blood work.

That’s why it’s critical to avoid getting complacent about trace gluten and always take steps to verify granola’s gluten status before eating. Proactively managing cross-contamination helps celiacs stay happy and healthy.


Granola made the traditional way nearly always contains gluten, making it unsuitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, by choosing certified gluten-free products made with clean oats, other grains, seeds, and nuts, enjoying granola can be possible after diagnosis.

Being an avid label reader, purchasing only reputable gluten-free brands, and customizing your own granola at home are keys to sticking to a celiac-safe diet. While caution with manufacturing processes and cross-contamination is still needed, granola can still be appreciated in moderation as part of a tasty gluten-free breakfast.

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