For many of us, salty foods are a source of pleasure. Consumed in small quantity, salt can enhance the taste of our food, without any adverse effect on our health.
If our intake is too high, a change in our eating habits to lower this consumption can fortunately reduce the risk of many health problems, particularly high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Health Canada recommends that Canadians consume around 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, and no more than 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt. Unfortunately, the average daily intake of Canadians is almost double the recommended intake.
Salt vs. sodium
When Health Canada talks about sodium, it's referring to our intake of salt, which is used as a seasoning and/or preservative in certain foods and products.
Table salt is in fact sodium salt (NaCl). However, there are other types of salt (e.g. Epsom salt, potassium salt (KCl) or sodium bicarbonate).
You can find out the amount of sodium in a food by consulting its nutritional table. The value is shown in milligrams (mg), and a percentage indicates how much a portion of this product represents in relation to the recommended daily intake.
How can I reduce my salt intake?
The first step is to become aware of the problem, and to identify the biggest sources of salt in our diet. Understanding how to consult a product's nutritional value label can teach us a lot about the subject.
Then, knowing that many of the prepared products sold in grocery stores or prepared meals in restaurants are too high in sodium, it's easy to understand how simple solutions, such as avoiding processed foods, cooking for ourselves at home, using low-sodium products, using herbs and spices to replace salt, and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, can help reduce our sodium intake.
Potassium salt has a salty taste, but different from table salt; it can be used to replace some of the sodium in our diet. However, it is not without impact on health either, so it's best to consult a professional before including it in your diet.
What about apps?
There are many ways in which health apps can help you reduce your salt intake. These include:
by teaching people about sodium, the foods in which it is hidden, and its harmful effects on health;
by raising awareness of actual consumption, and monitoring consumption during reduction efforts;
by offering food databases to find out the sodium content of the products we cook with or eat;
by offering low-sodium recipes;
by reinforcing water consumption;
and other features often found in nutrition apps, such as support from a community of peers or a coach, or feedback and behavioral analysis.
Being aware of your salt intake: are apps reliable?
It's hard for most people to calculate their daily salt intake by hand. And without the big picture, it's hard to be truly aware.
An app will come in handy in this situation. However, researchers have wondered about the reliability and accuracy of an app for calculating users' actual sodium consumption.
An app tested for its effectiveness in measuring sodium intake
The Noom app, a popular app for weight loss, was studied to validate this information (1).
In the study, participants had their sodium intake estimated according to foods manually entered in the app. They were also submitted to 24-hour urine sodium measurements; this reflects the salt consumed, via the sodium eliminated by the kidneys, in the urine.
The results supported the app's effectiveness in measuring salt intake. Although there was a difference between the sodium values calculated by the app and those measured in the urine, the correlation was maintained well enough, within the limits of what the researchers expected, to reach this positive conclusion.
Apps to help you become aware of, and eventually reduce, your salt intake
Here are a few apps to help you achieve your goal.
The app with a study proving the validity of the salt intake measure
Noom is a psychologically-based weight-loss app, aimed at establishing good lifestyle habits, with the more global objective of feeling, and being, healthy.
The app's qualities are reinforced by positive clinical acceptability/feasibility studies and numerous peer-reviewed clinical studies.
MyFitnessPal is another app that lets users track their nutritional intake, not only for sodium, but also for macronutrients, cholesterol, fiber, etc. It's also possible to set goals, and get an analysis of the results. It is also possible to set goals, and obtain an analysis of the results.
Here too, positive peer-reviewed clinical studies of acceptability/feasibility and clinical value have been carried out.
FoodNoms is another app for tracking food intake, including sodium. In addition to its extensive food and product database, it allows users to scan nutritional tables. It also lets you "create" your own products, recipes and meals, and share them with other users.
Called My Dash Diet, this app will be of particular interest to people with high blood pressure. It tracks sodium daily, in addition to calories, carbohydrates, proteins and more.
It's also a good source of information for learning all there is to know about the Dash Diet, a diet that can help prevent and control high blood pressure.
Apps to thwart... a salty problem!
There's no doubt that excessive salt consumption is bad for your health.
A study has shown that the Noom app is effective in helping people measure their sodium intake. This app can therefore facilitate awareness of a problem; other apps can help by offering not only tracking and analysis, but also education, low-sodium recipes, or peer support.
Whether it's to improve your overall health, lower your blood pressure, or prevent stroke or heart disease, an app could certainly help you achieve your goal!
1) Chan-Young Jung, Youngin Kim, Hyung Woo Kim, Seung Hyeok Han, Tae-Hyun Yoo, Shin-Wook Kang, Jung Tak Park, Nutrient, Aug 2023, Effectiveness of a Smartphone Application for Dietary Sodium Intake Measurement, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37630780/
Your health care professional can help you choose
Feeling confident is important. Get all the essential information about health apps by talking to your healthcare professional.
AppGuide provides reliable information about mobile health apps that allows patients and healthcare professionals to make informed, shared decisions about using a health app to track health status or act on your priority health goals.