Chromium is a trace mineral needed in only the minutest amounts. There is some debate that chromium is not an essential mineral, but this is based upon only one study done with rats. Humans still appear to need it for now.
Deficiency for this mineral should be rare since it's prevalent in many foods and only required in truly tiny doses, but this is not the case in the United States when compared to other countries. The level of chromium in U.S. soils isn’t very high. On top of this, our more modern, processed diet doesn’t supply much of this mineral and may actually be robbing our bodies of what we do have. Since chromium helps metabolize carbohydrates and stabilize blood sugar, our high carbohydrate and refined sugar diet depletes our reserves. This is especially true as we age and chromium absorption drops.
Chromium aids metabolism, controls blood sugar, reduces cravings, regulates fat and cholesterol, and stabilizes blood pressure. Deficiency is linked to many health risks, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, and bone loss. Common symptoms are anxiety even when under low stress, loss of energy, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, slow growth, and mood swings. Weight loss and confusion occur when severely deficient, while mild cases can cause an increase in insulin levels, obesity, cataracts, and chronic infection.
Food-based chromium is always the safest place to get this mineral. Supplements often rely on acidic chemicals that increase absorption but can also cause stomach problems, irregular heartbeat, low blood sugar, and even nerve and organ damage. These types of reactions are rare, but food is always the safest, non-toxic way to get the chromium you need. Proteins, vitamin C, and niacin increase absorption and these are found in many of the foods that contain chromium. Whole grains, nuts, onions, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, potatoes, herbs, spices, and brewer’s yeast are good sources of chromium. Whole grains and nuts should be soaked, sprouted, and/or fermented to remove the phytic acid that can prevent absorption of chromium and other nutrients.
Avoid refined sugars and refined flours that rob the body of chromium. Eat whole foods as often as possible. If you want a chromium supplement, look for whole-food sources on the labels like holy basil and other herbs.