Chromium is an important mineral that you might not think too much about, yet a deficiency can easily happen if you eat a poor diet. In a perfect world, we would get plenty through a healthy diet since chromium (and all minerals) are naturally found in mineral-rich soil. However, due to the way farming practices have changed over the years, we have to be more aware of our food choices in order to obtain enough vitamins and minerals. Organic farming methods improve your chances at obtaining healthy foods richer in nutrients, but it’s also important to focus on mostly plant-based foods versus processed foods to gain more benefits.
But first, what does chromium do in the human body?
Regulates and Improves Your Blood Sugar
Chromium is an important mineral for those with blood sugar problems or diabetes. A plant-based diet is a great way to improve your blood sugar and fight type 2 diabetes more naturally. Chromium helps with the regulation of glucose in the body and slows down insulin, helping to make use of carbohydrates more effectively.
Helps Build Muscle
Chromium can also help you build muscle more easily due to the way it helps regulate insulin and uses of carbohydrates during and after a workout for energy and metabolism. Your body needs complex (fiber-rich) carbohydrates to build lean muscle, but if your blood sugar is out of control, you’re less likely to benefit. Poor blood sugar levels interfere with the way insulin is used in the muscle cells, so it’s very important to manage blood sugar before and after your workouts. Chromium picolinate is often said to be the easiest form to absorb as a supplement, but plenty of foods also contain chromium that you can benefit from, as you’ll see below.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Chromium can also help lower your blood pressure due its regulation of insulin. When your insulin levels skyrocket out of control or are just out of balance, your blood pressure can also increase. This creates a stressful state in the body and can do serious damage to your heart if it happens on a regular basis. Be sure to take care of your body with nutrient-dense, plant-based foods and a diet low in sodium for best benefits. Exercise is also important for blood pressure, blood sugar and diabetes too, so get moving!
Weight Loss and Cravings
Many people report being able to lose weight more easily with a diet high in chromium. This is also an effect of the way the mineral regulates insulin in the body. Insulin spikes cause you to feel hungrier, even if your body is technically satisfied. Since your blood sugar also has a large effect on your weight, it’s important to eat a mineral-rich diet since magnesium, iron, zinc and chromium all contribute to satiety, healthy blood sugar levels, and/or use of carbohydrates for energy. A plant-based diet is rich in chromium (and other minerals), not to mention a natural way to manage your weight without harsh restrictions.
Foods Rich in Chromium
Adults need anywhere from 24-35 micrograms (mcg) of chromium per day. Here are some chromium-rich foods to add to your plate:
This veggie has so many benefits for our health. It’s higher in chromium than many other plant-based foods, providing 53 percent of your daily needs in just a cup! Try our broccoli recipes to get your fill of this healthy food. It’s also a good source of fiber which will also keep you full.
Oats are wonderful for those with diabetes because they help keep you full longer, are higher in fiber than most starchy grains, and provide a natural source of protein plus nutrients like magnesium, chromium, potassium, and iron. Oats contain 15 percent of your daily chromium needs in just 1/2 cup. Try our oatmeal recipes to add to your morning routine!
Another soluble-rich grain that’s also a good source of protein, barley is known as one of the best grains to benefit blood sugar. Barley contains 23 percent of your chromium needs in 1/2 cup. Try it cooked whole with some veggies, in tabbouleh, or in a rich, hearty soup.
Greens, specifically kale, spinach, romaine and spirulina (a blue green algae) are all wonderful sources of chromium. Amounts will differ per green, but be sure you buy organic since they’re are often coated with pesticides in conventional form. Greens are one of the best foods for your blood sugar, not just for their chromium content, but also for their magnesium content (another important mineral for blood sugar). Eat them any way you want, whether that means a smoothie, soup, salad, entree, or even as a healthy wrap!
More Chromium Sources and Tips
Other good sources of chromium include: nuts, seeds, most whole grains (including corn), tomatoes, beans (including cacao and coffee beans), legumes, asparagus, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, bananas, and apples. Brewer’s yeast (baking yeast) is also a common source and many times used in vegan probiotic supplements. Brewer’s yeast is an active yeast, so if you struggle with yeast sensitivities, have a history with candida overgrowth, or problems with fungal infections, you’ll need to avoid it. Nutritional yeast, however, is not an active yeast and also a good source of chromium you can use instead.
Add more plant-based foods to your day and you can easily get enough chromium in your diet without having to eat animal-based foods (also a natural source) when you choose a healthy, whole foods diet. In times where you’re not always able to access fresh, healthy foods, (such as during travel), a supplement may be useful. You can also choose a multivitamin with 100 percent of your daily chromium needs included in it. If you do take a supplement, be sure to read labels if you’re avoiding yeast and to avoid animal products to ensure that Brewer’s yeast or animal products aren’t the source.
See all of our recipes to work some mineral-rich foods into your diet and improve your overall health too!
Lead Image Source: Strawberry Kale Smoothie