As well as water and macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins), food contains minerals.

Minerals are substances that are essential to our bodies.
Often simply called minerals, these elements obtained from the earth are essential to ensure that our body functions properly, and they are involved in many of the body’s chemical reactions. They are classified in two categories: major minerals and trace elements.

Major minerals or macroelements are calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. They are called “major” because they form a large part of body content; a healthy adult man, for example contains more than 1 kg of calcium in his bones.

Trace elements include iron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, copper and selenium. They are called “trace elements” because they are found in very small quantities in the body, but these tiny amounts are adequate for the body’s functional requirements.

Daily mineral requirements vary from one person to another depending on many factors: gender and age, physical and intellectual activities, state of health, physiological status (growth, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause), dietary habits and stress levels.

Mineral elements account for about 4% of body weight, but are involved in a wide range of important functions:

  • Some are used to produce proteins and transmit nerve impulses;
  • Some act on bone mineralisation or control fluid balance, while others act on the muscle, nervous or immune systems;
  • They are also involved in enzyme and hormone system functions;
  • Minerals can act on cellular activity, with an antioxidant action (involved in metabolic reactions to neutralise free radicals), etc.

Some of them are vital in themselves, such as iron, which is an essential component of haemoglobin, responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood.

Basic facts about calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with 99% found in bones and teeth. It is mainly known for its role in bone construction, but it is also involved in muscle contraction, blood coagulation, cellular exchanges, neurotransmission and energy metabolism.
It is important to note the synergy that exists between calcium and vitamin D, which promotes good absorption of calcium by the body.

Rich foods

Calcium is a mineral found in many foods. A balanced diet is therefore largely adequate to provide enough calcium to meet DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes).
Dietary calcium is mainly found in dairy products, but also in chickpeas, dried beans, lentils, spinach, cress and dried fruit and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, figs and apricots, etc. It is therefore important to think of these types of products in the event of intolerance to lactose or milk protein allergies.

Calcium content of dairy products*:

Dairy products (per 100 g) Calcium Content
Emmental 1073 mg
Cantal 798 mg
Comté 909 mg
Gouda 796 mg
Morbier 760 mg
Reblochon 514 mg
Plain whole milk yoghurt 126 mg
0% fat yoghurt 143 mg
45% fat Camembert 456 mg
Whole milk fruit yoghurt 106 mg
0% fat fromage blanc/cottage cheese 118 mg
30% fat fromage blanc/cottage cheese 107 mg
Semi-skimmed UHT milk 115 mg
Skimmed UHT milk 113 mg

*AFSSA Table Ciqual 2008

Calcium content of mineral water:

Natural flat mineral water Calcium content
Hépar 555 mg/L
Courmayeur 533 mg/L
Contrex 486 mg/L
Wattwiller 288 mg/L
Vittel 202 mg/L
Rosana 301 mg/L
Arvie 170 mg/L
Evian 78 mg/L
Volvic 12 mg/L
Natural carbonated mineral water Calcium content
Contrex fines bulles 486 mg/L
Chateldon 383 mg/L
Salvetat 253 mg/L
Quézac 241 mg/L
Badoit 190 mg/L
San Pellegrino 185 mg/L
Perrier 149 mg/L
Vichy Célestin 103 mg/L
Saint Yorre 90 mg/L

Calcium content of fruit and vegetables*:

Fruit and vegetables (per 100 g) Calcium content
Cooked spinach 196 mg
Cooked broccoli 48,9 mg
Cooked haricot beans 39,3 mg
Cress 55,1 mg
Almonds 248 mg
Celery root 41,7 mg
Green beans 47,6 mg
Dry figs 165 mg
Orange 33,5 mg

*AFSSA Table Ciqual 2008

Find out more about calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body: a healthy adult man contains more than 1 kg of calcium, depending on bone structure, and a woman has about 800 g. About 99% of this calcium is found in bones and teeth.
It is mainly because of this (as well as phosphorus and magnesium) that bone is rigid and strong. This is why it is essential to have an adequate intake of calcium. Calcium is also found in its free form, which is not stored in bones and teeth, and is used in many cell reactions. If free calcium is in short supply for these different reactions, the body uses the calcium in its bones, which can lead to bone fragility.

Roles of calcium

Calcium is mainly known for its role in bone construction, but this is only one of its properties. Calcium is also involved in cardiac muscle contraction and normal digestive enzyme functions.

The roles played by calcium include:

  • Bone growth and maintenance.
  • Moderating role of free calcium in neuromuscular excitability.
  • Free calcium is involved in blood coagulation.
  • Calcium is necessary for maintaining normal dentition.
  • It plays a part in energy metabolism.

The Calcium – Vitamin D duo

Vitamin D is essential for good calcium absorption by the body, facilitating active calcium transport across the intestinal mucosa. Without vitamin D, calcium cannot play its part in bone construction. Because calcium is used by the body in various reactions, it would be taken from bones without being renewed.

Requirements in calcium

Growth, pregnancy and breastfeeding are periods during which calcium requirements are increased. Calcium intake during these periods must be higher, to ensure good development of bones.

Similarly, staying immobile for long periods increases the excretion of calcium in urine. Therefore, a sedentary person who does not do much physical exercise or who is confined to bed for medical reasons, must monitor his/her calcium levels more than other people.

Table of DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes) for calcium:

Age / Status DRI for calcium
Children aged 1 to 3 years 500 mg
Children aged 4 to 12 years 700 à 1200 mg
Teenagers aged 13 to 19 years 1200 mg
Men 900 mg
Women 900 mg
Pregnant women (> 3rd trimester) 1000 mg
Breastfeeding women 1000 mg
Femmes après 55 ans 1200 mg
Hommes après 65 ans 1200 mg


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