Is Oat Flour Paleo?

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The current popularity of the Paleo diet and gluten-free diets in general has lifted gluten-free flours such as oat flour out of obscurity. Special precautions have to be taken for oat flour to be truly gluten-free but even when certified as such, is oat flour Paleo?

Nutritional Value of Oat Flour

Serving size: 1/3 cup

  • Calories: 160
  • Total Fat: 3 g
  • Saturated Fat:  0.5 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 26 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Iron: 1.6 g
  • Magnesium: 58 mg
  • Zinc: 1.3 mg
  • Manganese: 3 mg
  • Selenium: 13.6 mcg

Health Benefits of Oat Flour

Oat flour is made from whole oats, and owes its healthy reputation to a type of soluble fiber comprised of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans. Beta-glucans have been shown to lower risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Beta-glucans have also been shown to enhance immune response to infection, have anti-tumor properties, and stabilize blood sugar. This is good news for oat flour however eating fruit and vegetables has these very same health effects. In fact, one can conclude that with ample fruit and vegetables in the diet, oat products are simply not necessary for optimal health. Moreover, there are actually several significant downfalls to eating oat flour.

First, all grains including oats contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that binds to minerals and reduces their absorptive ability. Therefore, all the essential minerals listed above are only partially absorbed. Furthermore, phytates can be irritating to the lining of the small intestine and contribute to leaky gut, a condition associated with systemic inflammation and autoimmune disease.

Second, oats contain avenin, a potentially toxic lectin to those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Cross-reactivity to avenin where the immune system is activated by mistaking avenin for gluten may occur in these individuals to varying degrees of detriment.

Third, though oats do not contain the protein gluten, unless they are certified as gluten-free, they can be contaminated with gluten during all phases of manufacturing. This can happen early on in the initial stages of growth as a result of rotating oats and gluten containing grains in shared soil. Later, oats can be contaminated as a result of contact with gluten containing products during transport, storage and production.

Is Oat Flour Paleo?

No, oat flour is not Paleo. The Paleo diet is about sourcing and eating foods that our bodies evolved to thrive on over the Paleolithic millennia. Grains were added to the human diet only recently, a mere 10,000 years ago and many of us still have trouble assimilating them. Due to oat flours’ supply of phytates and the potentially toxic lectin avenin, as well as its potential for cross-reactivity and gluten contamination, it is not an acceptable addition to a Paleo lifestyle.

Alternatives to oat flour include all the gluten-free, grain-free, and legume-free flours, powders and starches you can imagine. However, blanched almond flour, almond meal, coconut flour, arrowroot flour and tapioca starch/flour are probably the most readily available and commonly used Paleo flours. You’ll probably have to experiment a bit to determine which flours work best as substitutes for oat flour in your recipes and you may decide that a combination of flours produce the best results. Check out the reference at the end of this article for an excellent primer by The Paleo Mom on Paleo flours and how best to use them in Paleo cooking and baking.

Where to Buy Alternatives to Oat Flour

Commonly used Paleo flours such as those mentioned above can be found supermarkets, natural food markets and on-line. Less commonly used flours such as plantain flour, sweet potato flour and vegetable flours are available on-line.

Selected Resources

The Paleo Mom

Marks Daily Apple

Sally Barden Johnson

Sally Johnson, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian and health coach. She is an avid CrossFitter and enjoys working with clients to find the best nutritional solutions within a Paleo/Primal framework to solve their health issues. She also enjoys spending time with her family. She can be found on Instagram at instagram.com/sallyjohnsonrd.