Chromium has come up a few times in my classes recently, so I thought I’d do a quick overview of what it is, why it is important, and which foods contain high levels of chromium.
What is chromium?
Chromium is an essential trace mineral. Our bodies absorb about 10-25% of chromium from a particular food.
Why is chromium so important?
One of the main functions of chromium is to help control blood sugar. Chromium is used to produce glucose tolerance factor, which is a compound that helps insulin function properly. When insulin is functioning properly, we are less likely to experience dramatic highs and lows in our blood sugar. I talked about blood sugar last week here – if you are someone who has ever had trouble stabilizing your blood sugar, you know what I’m talking about when I say “highs and lows”. Not everyone experiences these dramatic shifts, but many do (I know I do!).
One of the results of balancing blood sugar through chromium’s ability to produce glucose tolerance factor could be a clearing up of someone’s acne. Often times acne is directly related to blood glucose levels, and when they become balanced, the skin will also clear up.
Another function of chromium is fat and cholesterol metabolism. One study has found that chromium works with niacin (vitamin B3). You may remember when I talked about niacin back in March. It is a key nutrient used for metabolism of all of our food.
Chromium intake has also been linked to an increase in lean body mass.
Since our country eats so much processed foods, it is very realistic to think that one may have a chromium deficiency if they have certain symptoms. Symptoms can include high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Which foods contain chromium?
The most chromium-packed food I could find is (big surprise) calf’s liver. I blogged a great liver recipe here, but remember that it is extremely important to get your liver from a grass-fed calf to ensure its liver is healthy.
Other great food sources of chromium include potatoes (and I don’t mean french fries, unless of course you make them yourself at home); oysters; chicken; bran; whole grain bread; raw onions; green peppers; romaine lettuce; carrots; apples; bananas; cooked spinach; and cooked cabbage.
Some people also take a chromium supplement if they are experience signs of a deficiency. Before supplementing with chromium, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about any potential interactions chromium could have with other drugs.