CHROMIUM: Your Fat-Busting, Vitality Mineral

If you want to promote lean muscle mass and prevent excess fat storage, if you want a steady fuel supply for buoyant mental health and an energetic body, then the mineral chromium can help achieve all this and more.

For an easy, tasty source try my Dynamite spread recipe as below.

Your survival depends on cells obtaining fuel in the form of exactly the right amount of glucose or blood sugar. It is insulin’s job to courier this in. The brain is the most glucose-hungry organ and the first to feel its lack. All carbohydrates – whether from vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts or seeds – eventually get broken down into glucose. What differs is the speed at which they do this. Individual foods have been measured in this regard and placed on a scale called the Glycemic Index or GI.

Carbohydrate foods that are slow to break down such as chickpeas, broccoli and nuts are termed low GI. Those that digest rapidly into glucose such as Jasmine rice, plain white bread and corn flakes are classified as high GI. Eating too much high GI food at a meal stimulates a surge of glucose. This sudden fuel spike can make these foods attractive, even compulsive choices.

The unpleasant consequences however are just as swift. The pancreas releases extra insulin as a coping mechanism. Prolonged high levels of insulin can be life threatening, so if this spiking happens too often the cells start to refuse it entrance. By becoming ‘insulin resistant’ though, they are unable to access the needed glucose it carries. Instead it is converted into fat, in the form of raised blood fats (such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides) and/or visible body fat. A person experiencing this will feel fatigued, have poor mental sharpness, easily gain weight despite dieting, suffer from poor wound healing and infection fighting, and be prone to diabetes, polycystic ovaries and cardiovascular disease.

Regulate Weight, Blood Sugar, Mind and Mood

Here is where chromium comes to the rescue. It is a major regulator of all insulin activities. It increases the number of receptor sites on cells – and their insulin sensitivity –  so they can receive and dine heartily on energy-giving glucose. Clinical studies of dieters, athletes, people with and without diabetes, all verify chromium’s role in maintaining steady glucose and lowered insulin levels. This in turn increases thermogenesis or the production of heat that burns fat. It even helps rectify insulin resistance evident in the skin and linked to acne, which some researchers now term ‘skin diabetes’.

Most modern diets are low in chromium. Wholegrains are a good source until they have their bran and germ stripped, which is where the mineral content is centered. And the more such refined high GI carbs you consume, the more chromium you need to help with the consequent elevated insulin levels. Too much stress causes blood sugar fluctuations, which then means yet more chromium is required. Too many calcium supplements and antacids decrease its absorption, while vitamin C increases absorption. Adult needs are 50-200 mcg daily.

To the rescue comes one stand out, best absorbed food source that is also the top supplier of most B vitamins (not active B12), a good source of protein, other key minerals, is low GI and gluten-free. This wonder product is food yeast in the form of brewers yeast and savoury yeast (not the baking yeast used in bread making). It is the basis of commercial yeast spreads like Marmite, but these include artificial additives, sugar and MSG or its act-alikes.

Health food stores, most supermarkets and bulk bins stock ‘savoury yeast flakes’, which look like a large, tan coloured version of chocolate flakes (there the similarity ends though). These have a mild nutty taste – unlike bitter brewers yeast – and can be sprinkled over soup, salad, steamed veg, or stirred into patties, rice and pasta dishes, dressings and sauces. Try 1-3 tsp per serving, mixed in with something moist. Avoid the strongly flavoured Lotus fortified brand. It looks yellow brown and finely milled.

Yeast is a wonderful supplier of the core taste known as ‘umami’ or savouriness. Aged cheese, mushrooms, miso and soy sauce also contribute umami. Vegan cheese and other meat and dairy alternatives often count on yeast’s savoury contribution.

An easy way to enjoy savoury yeast is in my yummy Dynamite spread. It tastes like Vegemite, but looks like runny peanut butter. This is a luscious topping excellent on toast or crackers, as a dip for raw vegetable sticks, or draped over baked potato or steamed veg. Covered and chilled it keeps for weeks and – remarkably for something so nutritious – even comes tot and teen-approved.

1 cup savoury yeast flakes (not bitter brewers’ yeast; buy from health stores, supermarkets, bulk bins)
4 Tbsp water (hot is ideal to easily create a smooth texture)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp tamari (naturally fermented, wheat-free soy sauce); or coconut aminos*; or lemon juice or sesame oil

In a small jar mix all ingredients with a fork until smooth. Note that different types and brands of savoury yeast will require different amounts of water to make it spreadable. Adjust as you go. Using hot water is ideal to produce a smooth texture.
Cover; chill; keeps for weeks.

Note: Coconut aminos look and taste similar to soy sauce. The Ceres brand is in many supermarkets.

See also my Health Report: You Are Just a Few Steps Away from Peak Vitality.
FOOD SOURCES                     MCG

Brewers/Savoury Yeast (30g)       70
Liver, cooked (30g)                       14
Cheese (30g)                                48
Onions, raw (1/2 c)                       12
Large egg  (1)                               36
Broccoli, cooked (1/2 c)                11
Wholewheat cereal (30g)              33
Tomato, raw (1/2 c)                       5
Peas, cooked (1/2 c – cup)           30
Grape juice (1/2 c)                         4

NZ and APJCN Food Composition Tables; USDA Nutrient Database; dependent on season, soil, variety, style of preparation

CAUTION: Due to the potential impact on insulin management, diabetics should not take chromium supplements without advice from their health professional.

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