What is chromium and why do we need it in our diets?

A dietitian explains what this little-known nutrient is, the role it plays in the body, how much we need, and which foods it can be found in.

A bowl of carrot and lentil soup

Chromium is a trace element that plays a role in insulin regulation. You should be able to get all the chromium you need from a balanced and varied diet.

Always speak to your GP or healthcare provider before taking a new supplement or if you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies.

What is chromium?

Chromium is a trace element that is required in small quantities by the body. It is found in two forms, the first being trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food. The second is hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution.

Why do we need chromium?

Chromium is required for the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat and protein to a suitable form that can be used by the body. It is also known to enhance the action of insulin – chromium deficiency impairs the function of insulin. However, it is still unclear if chromium supplements improve glucose control.

How much chromium do we need and what are the effects of consuming too much?

The NHS advises that around 25 micrograms of chromium a day should be enough for adults. A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg).

There are some case reports to suggest the high doses of chromium can harm the kidneys and liver. A healthy and balanced diet should provide enough chromium for the body, so supplements should not generally be necessary.

One-pot mushroom and potato curry

Which foods are good sources of chromium?

Wholegrain products, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, molasses, pulses and spices are good sources of chromium.

Recipe suggestions

Broccoli with a crunch
One-pot mushroom & potato curry
Spiced carrot & lentil soup
Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup

More on vitamins and minerals

What is iodine?
What is manganese?
What is zinc?
What is folic acid?
What is phosphorous?
What is potassium?


This article was published on 6 August 2019.

Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London's top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.
Be the first to comment...We'd love to hear how you got on with this recipe. Did you like it? Would you recommend others give it a try?
Be the first to ask a question about this recipe...Unsure about the cooking time or want to swap an ingredient? Ask us your questions and we’ll try and help you as soon as possible. Or if you want to offer a solution to another user’s question, feel free to get involved...
Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe...Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.