A totally unexpected but fantastic result was reported in Potatoes South Africa’s 2011 nutrition study.

Wait for it…South African potatoes are high in chromium! The Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for chromium for people 4 years and older is 35ug. NRV refers to the recommended daily intake of a specific nutrient. It was found in the 2011 potatoes nutrition study that the average medium potato provides 15ug of chromium, which is a whopping 43% of your daily recommended intake. This is very exciting news for us South Africans, because as obesity and diabetes levels increase, we need to look at nutrients and foods that can assist with lowering insulin levels and assisting us in controlling food intake.

Approximately 3.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes and many more are undiagnosed. It is estimated that another 5 million South Africans have pre-diabetes, a condition where insulin resistance causes blood glucose levels to be higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be type II diabetes.

Chromium is an essential mineral that plays a role in how insulin helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that your body uses to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life. Since our body is not able to produce chromium, we need to take in through our diet.

At this stage South African intake levels of chromium are unknown. It is reported that as many as 90% of American diets are low in chromium. Considering that our diets are very similar to Western ones, it is safe to assume South African diets are also low in chromium.

Though it is rare to be truly deficient in chromium, adequate dietary chromium is encouraged as a slight chromium deficiency can lead to the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Even mild deficiencies of chromium can produce problems in blood sugar metabolism, and contribute to other symptoms such as anxiety or fatigue. Altered cholesterol metabolism, accelerated atherosclerosis, decreased growth in young people and delayed healing time after injuries or surgery can be a result of chromium deficiency.

Certain populations, such as the elderly, people who do a lot of strenuous exercise, those who eat a lot of sugary foods, and pregnant women are most likely to be deficient in chromium. Low chromium levels can increase blood sugar, triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of a number of conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

For optimum chromium intake, eat the best food sources of this mineral regularly.

Potatoes without a doubt play an important role in the provision of daily nutrients to our bodies. Make potatoes part of a healthy and balanced diet.

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