As one of Mother Nature’s go-to blood sugar regulators, chromium helps insulin do its job of converting sugars and starches into energy by aiding the transport of glucose into the cells.1 It also plays a role in the normal metabolism and storage of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. While we don’t require large amounts of chromium to maintain normal metabolic function, it’s still an essential mineral that must be accounted for in our daily diets.
Signs of Chromium Deficiency
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, up to 90 percent of Americans may not be getting enough chromium through food alone. Though actual deficiency is rare and hard to accurately define.2
Pregnant women, the elderly and those who eat a lot of sugar are all more prone to chromium deficiency than the average adult, as are those who maintain a regular schedule of high intensity exercise. Americans are also more apt to have low chromium levels due to our industrialized food supply, which has become more removed from fertile farmlands and mineral-rich soil.
Signs of low chromium or chromium deficiency include:
- Poor blood sugar metabolism
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Changes in weight, appetite or mood
How Much Chromium Do I Need?
The short answer is not much… we’re talking micrograms (mcg). According to the National Institutes of Health:
In 1989, the National Academy of Sciences established an “estimated safe and adequate daily dietary intake” range for chromium. For adults and adolescents that range was 50 to 200 mcg. In 2001, DRIs (Daily Reference Intakes) for chromium were established. The research base was insufficient to establish RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances), so AIs (Adequate Intakes) were developed based on average intakes of chromium from food as found in several studies.1
Daily Chromium Recommendations
- Adult Males — 35 mcg
- Adult Females — 25 mcg
- Males 50+ — 30 mcg
- Females 50+ — 20 mcg
- Pregnant Women — 30 mcg
- Breastfeeding Women — 45 mcg
Foods High in Chromium
As alluded to earlier, chromium content in foods is actually pretty hard to quantify with any degree of certainty. Why? Because of the varying quality of agricultural and livestock production practices — soil content varies widely from field to field, for example — it’s almost impossible to say for sure that one cup of broccoli contains exactly 20 mcg of chromium. It will depend on that specific head of broccoli, plus where and how it was grown.
That said, chromium is widely available in many common foods, so it’s not too big a challenge to boost your intake should you determine your levels are low. Meat, products made with whole grains like bread and breakfast cereals, as well as many fruits and vegetables all contain high enough levels of chromium to meet your daily needs. Brewer’s yeast, a common staple at any health food store, is also a great source of chromium.
High Chromium Foods Grocery List
- Turkey breast deli meat
- Whole wheat bread
- Orange or grape juice
- Green beans
What About Chromium Supplements?
Nutrition experts would argue that since our daily chromium requirements are relatively low, we should have no problem getting all we need from our diet. The science is also mixed on whether or not chromium supplements (usually in the form of chromium picolinate or chromium polynicotinate) provide any added value to otherwise healthy adults.
Those struggling with blood sugar or heart-health concerns, including those looking for blood sugar support, however, would argue that their chromium supplements are a valuable addition to their routine, helping them maintain normal levels. Others working to keep their weight in a healthy range may also swear by their chromium picolinate supplement, but the science is inconclusive.
If you’re already taking a daily multivitamin, check the label — you might already be getting what you need without any additional supplementation. Before you add a chromium supplement into your day, consult with your doctor or primary healthcare provider, especially if you’re taking any prescription medications.
About Bushra Hassan, MBA, RD & LDN
Registered Dietitian & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, Swanson Health
Bushra is an expert in supplement development, nutrition education, wellness coaching, and product brand management. Her work focuses on diet and nutrition, digestive health, and integrative and functional medicine. She enjoys baking, trying new restaurants, and exploring the beautiful city of Chicago.
1 National Institutes of Health: Chromium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 11/9/2017
2 University of Maryland Medical Center: Chromium. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/chromium (Accessed 11/9-/2017)