Rather than a starring role, chromium plays the part of an enthusiastic supporting actor in terms of our health. However, just as with any theater production, a full cast is needed for the show to go on smoothly. Read on to learn what chromium is, how it helps us, and where to find it.

What Is It?

Chromium is an element found on the periodic table, most commonly known as a hard and very brittle metal. For the purposes of nutrition, it is considered a trace mineral. Trace minerals are those that the body needs in very small amounts in order to remain healthy.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Chromium’s primary role [1] is in regulation of our blood glucose levels; as such, it is considered helpful in controlling and preventing diabetes. It does this by transporting the glucose we consume into individual cells so that it can be transformed into the energy our body uses to function.

Metabolism of fats is accomplished with the help of chromium, and so chromium is correlated with healthier arteries and more balanced cholesterol levels. It also encourages good metabolism, and can prevent acne and glaucoma.

Chromium has also been linked to better appetite control and so is considered a preventive for obesity. Many researchers are still studying chromium; they cannot find a unique function for it and are struggling to understand if one even exists.

All of the functions chromium accomplishes are also accomplished by other compounds, and would theoretically continue if chromium were absent. So, scientists are looking for bodily function or biochemical reaction that is uniquely accomplished with the help of chromium.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Maintaining proper chromium levels is important for everyone, regardless of lifestyle. However, just as chromium helps to control blood glucose levels in diabetes patients, it is important for fitness enthusiasts, as your body uses fuel quickly during a workout compared to period of rest.

Chromium can help ensure that this process happens evenly and prevent drops in blood sugar as a result of intense exercise. Of course, to reap this benefit you also have to ensure that you eat enough so that the chromium in your body has enough fuel to regulate in the first place.

What Foods Contain It?

Chromium mostly makes its way into the food we eat through the soil that food is grown in. This means that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of chromium in a food because it can change depending on when and where the crop was grown.

However, it is useful to keep in mind foods that generally have a good amount of chromium. These include: broccoli, grapes, red wine, potatoes, garlic, basil, oranges, bananas, turkey, and beef.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

In order to remain healthy, you need [2] relatively little chromium. Infants require .2mcg per day, with recommended daily allowances increasing as you age. Adults aged 19 years and over have a recommended daily allowance of 35mcg per day for men and 25mcg per day for women. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should generally consume a bit more, between 30mcg and 35mcg per day.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

You don’t need to be concerned with getting too much chromium from the foods you eat, as it is virtually impossible to reach toxic levels of chromium from dietary sources alone. However, if you take a lot of chromium supplements when you don't genuinely need them it can cause damage [3] to your heart, liver, and kidneys.

Excessive chromium can also cause drops in blood sugar, and interact negatively with a variety of medication. It is recommended not to begin chromium supplementation without first speaking to your physician because of these risks.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Even though the functions of chromium are not considered unique to this trace mineral, its absence from your body can produce negative symptoms. These include changes in mood or behavior such as increased irritability or anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration, weakening of bones, and poor control of blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Deficiency can also cause you to experience changes in your appetite or weight that are outside of your norm. Chromium deficiency is normally associated with countries that are still developing or have unreliable food distribution, or individuals with diabetes whose bodies use the mineral faster than normal to help control blood sugar.

Chromium is a not a superpower nutrient per se, but it does an important job in helping us stay healthy. In order to keep feeling like our best selves, it can be a good idea to ensure we are including foods with a hearty chromium content into our diets. It looks like mom and dad were right when they said we needed to eat our broccoli!


[1] Health Guide, New York Times. Chromium in Diet., 2013.

[2] Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Chromium. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2013.

[3] WebMD. Chromium Supplements: Topic Overview., 2015.