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MSG vs. Salt: Sodium Comparison

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It’s Q&A Day at 10almonds!

Q: Is MSG healthier than salt in terms of sodium content or is it the same or worse?

Great question, and for that matter, MSG itself is a great topic for another day. But your actual question, we can readily answer here and now:

  • Firstly, by “salt” we’re assuming from context that you mean sodium chloride.
  • Both salt and MSG do contain sodium. However…
  • MSG contains only about a third of the sodium that salt does, gram-for-gram.
  • It’s still wise to be mindful of it, though. Same with sodium in other ingredients!
  • Baking soda contains about twice as much sodium, gram for gram, as MSG.

Wondering why this happens?

Salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) is equal parts sodium and chlorine, by atom count, but sodium’s atomic mass is lower than chlorine’s, so 100g of salt contains only 39.34g of sodium.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO₃) is one part sodium for one part hydrogen, one part carbon, and three parts oxygen. Taking each of their diverse atomic masses into account, we see that 100g of baking soda contains 27.4g sodium.

MSG (monosodium glutamate, C₅H₈NO₄Na) is only one part sodium for 5 parts carbon, 8 parts hydrogen, 1 part nitrogen, and 4 parts oxygen… And all those other atoms put together weigh a lot (comparatively), so 100g of MSG contains only 12.28g sodium.

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