Chromium is a trace element that your body needs a very small amount of for some very important metabolic processes.
With up to half the population of America estimated to be chromium deficient and obesity and diabetes at record levels, here are some of the highest food sources of chromium and the best kind of chromium supplement to take.
Why You Need Chromium
Adequate chromium is essential for the proper utilization of carbohydrates, protein and fatty acids in your diet and is a key factor in healthy metabolism.It is involved in regulating blood sugar levels and the transportation of glucose into cells by insulin.
For this reason, chromium may be particularly important for people looking to lose weight and lower their risk of diabetes. The USA has one of the highest incidence of chromium deficiency in the Western world, with estimates of between 25 and 50 percent of the American population at least mildly deficient in chromium.
This is due to both highly processed diets and the very low soil levels of chromium across the United States from intensive farming.
Given this, chromium supplementation would be worth considering for anyone not eating a lot of the high chromium foods recommended ahead.
This is also particularly important for elderly people who are believed to often have a diminished ability to absorb the little chromium remaining in their food.
The best type of chromium supplement I’ve found is at the end of this article, but first, some of the potential health benefits of getting more chromium into your diet.
4 Chromium Benefits
1. Insulin Sensitivity for Normalizing Blood Sugar Levels
Chromium has been shown to make your body more sensitive to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for transporting sugars in your bloodstream into cells, but when there is too much glucose in your blood it can be converted to fat for storage.
By increasing insulin sensitivity, chromium may help process glucose out of the blood more quickly.
This can reduce blood sugar spikes that lead to excess glucose being converted to triglycerides and stored as body fat.
Even with supplemental chromium there are limits on the ability of insulin to efficiently deal with the massive amounts of simple carbohydrates found in junk foods like white bread and soda. If you’re serious about losing weight, usually the simplest and most effective step is to start with reducing carbohydrates.
2. Lower Risk of Diabetes
Constant demands for insulin on the pancreas can start the destructive chain of events that leads to type II diabetes. By increasing insulin sensitivity, a good dietary intake of chromium may help reduce the risk of developing the disease.
Once again, a small tablet of chromium isn’t going to make up for a junk food diet, but supplementation could improve diabetes risk factors, as demonstrated in this research.
People already living with diabetes should consult their physician if they would like to see whether supplemental chromium could help improve blood sugar control. Studies are generally positive but it’s important to discuss timing and whether chromium supplements may interfere with other medications.
3. Mood Enhancement
People who are deficient in chromium can have trouble producing enough serotonin, the hormone associated with relaxation and a positive mood.
If you are low on chromium, supplementation may help increase serotonin production, though there are many other nutritional deficiencies like low B vitamins that could also be responsible for reduced serotonin levels.
4. Extra Energy
Since chromium is needed for effective protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, some people (who were likely deficient in it previously) have reported extra energy when they start taking a chromium supplement.
Many other nutrients, such as iron, can also drastically affect energy levels and a healthy, varied diet is a more comprehensive approach for increasing daily energy.
7 High Chromium Foods
1. Brewer’s Yeast
The old health staple brewer’s yeast is one of the richest sources of chromium.
Just a tablespoon of it added to a homemade muesli or in a smoothie provides up to 15 mcg of chromium – around half the recommended daily intake.
This makes it a serious food-based alternative to regular supplementation.
Nutritional superstar broccoli is a great source of chromium with around half your recommended intake in a cup of the vegetable.
As with most nutrients in vegetables like broccoli, it’s best to steam them rather than boil them in water that can leach out much of the nutritional value.
3. Free Range Eggs
Egg yolks are a good source of selenium if the chickens that produced them had a healthy diet.
4. Sweet Potato
Delicious sweet potatoes are generally nutritionally superior to regular potatoes.
They are a good source of chromium as well as pro-vitamin A and a wide variety of antioxidants and other minerals.
Corn on the cob can be a natural source of chromium, but unfortunately most corn is now genetically engineered to contain suspect toxins to kill insects.
If you’d like to avoid the Monsanto experiment, purple corn is said to be GMO free. As is the case with wheat and most other grains, processed corn products will contain little if any selenium.
6. Grass Fed Beef
The best type of beef is grass fed. Cows raised on grass, rather than a diet of corn processing waste with added antibiotics, will always produce superior beef that contains good levels of chromium and many other minerals.
Traditional rolled oats are a source of selenium and are one of the healthier grains if you’re not currently trying to lose weight.
If you are not getting a lot of chromium rich foods like these into your diet, or would just like to increase your intake for the potential blood sugar benefits, then a good chromium supplement could be worth considering.
The Best Chromium Supplement to Take
The recommended daily intake for chromium is 25 mcg for women and 35 mcg for men, though this is likely too low to provide the potential chromium health benefits mentioned earlier.
That, even at these low levels, so many of us are considered deficient just goes to show how little chromium there is in most supermarket foods. The majority of chromium supplements deliver 200 mcg of chromium and this is generally considered a good daily amount with no commonly reported side effects.
As always, it’s best to discuss using chromium with your doctor if you are taking other medications, particularly any that affect your blood sugar levels. There are actually several different types of chromium supplements available based on bonding the trace mineral to different compounds for optimal delivery.
Chromium picolinate, chromium chelavite and chromium polynicotinate appear to be the most popular.There are different proponents of all three of these forms of chromium, with much debate online in particular as to whether chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate is the best form.
In fact, studies show different benefits for each, but found chromium polynicotinate, picolinate and chelavite all enhanced insulin sensitivity, while both picolinate and polynicotinate ‘were protective in lessening free radical formation and DNA damage in the liver and kidneys’.
Rather than pick just one form of chromium, this tri-chromium supplement contains all three of the most effective forms in polynicotinate, picolinate and chelavite.
It is also enhanced with cinnamon, a proven spice for regulating blood sugar levels and reducing appetite.
The best way to use it is to take one chromium tablet with your biggest carbohydrate meal of the day, whether it be breakfast cereal in the morning, sandwiches for lunch or a pasta or rice dish in the evening.
There’s some very good reasons to limit processed grain foods and other simple carbohydrates in your diet, but if you are having them, chromium may help your body normalize its blood sugar levels, particularly if you were previously low on this essential trace mineral.