What is the Difference Between MSG and Salt

The main difference between MSG and salt is that MSG adds a savory taste, whereas salt adds a salty taste.

MSG (monosodium glutamate) and salt are two common food additives that enhance the flavor of dishes in different ways. However, they serve distinct purposes and are used in different culinary contexts.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is MSG 
      – Definition, Features, Uses
2. What is Salt
      – Definition, Features, Uses
3. Similarities Between MSG and Salt
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between MSG and Salt
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: MSG and Salt
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, NaCl, Salt, Sodium Chloride

Difference Between MSG and Salt - Comparison Summary

What is MSG

Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that is one of the building blocks of proteins. Glutamic acid is an important neurotransmitter in the human brain, playing a crucial role in neural signaling. MSG itself is produced through the fermentation of carbohydrates, typically from starches like corn, sugar beets, or molasses. This process mimics the natural fermentation that occurs in some foods, giving rise to the umami flavor commonly associated with MSG.

MSG’s ability to enhance flavors lies in its unique interaction with taste receptors on the tongue. Glutamate, the key component of MSG, is a major contributor to the umami taste. When MSG is added to food, it binds to specific receptors on the taste buds, intensifying the perception of umami and enhancing the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Compare MSG and Salt

In the kitchen, MSG is useful as a flavor enhancer to elevate the taste of a wide range of dishes. It is particularly valued in Asian cuisines, where umami is highly prized. Chefs and food manufacturers appreciate MSG for its ability to round out and intensify flavors without overpowering the original taste of the ingredients. It is commonly found in processed foods, savory snacks, and restaurant dishes.

Contrary to some misconceptions, MSG is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by regulatory authorities around the world when consumed in moderate amounts. Numerous scientific studies have failed to establish a consistent link between MSG and adverse health effects, debunking the so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome” that was once associated with the consumption of MSG.

What is Salt

Chemically known as sodium chloride (NaCl), salt is a crystalline structure formed by the ionic bonding of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-) ions. This ubiquitous compound is not just a seasoning for our meals; it is deeply intertwined with various natural processes and industrial applications.

The formation of salt occurs through the reaction between a strong base (sodium hydroxide, NaOH) and a strong acid (hydrochloric acid, HCl). The resulting compound, NaCl, exhibits a cubic crystal lattice structure due to the arrangement of sodium and chloride ions. This structure gives salt its characteristic crystalline appearance.

MSG vs Salt

The chemistry of salt extends beyond its visual characteristics. When dissolved in water, NaCl dissociates into its constituent ions, Na+ and Cl-. This dissociation is crucial for many physiological processes in living organisms. Sodium ions are essential for nerve function and muscle contraction, while chloride ions contribute to maintaining proper fluid balance.

The unique properties of salt also make it a versatile substance in various chemical processes. It is a key component in the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide through the electrolysis of brine (a concentrated solution of salt in water). Additionally, salt helps in the synthesis of countless chemicals, from pharmaceuticals to industrial compounds.

In nature, the chemistry of salt is intricately linked to the water cycle. Saltwater from oceans and seas undergoes the process of evaporation, leaving behind salt deposits. Over geological time scales, these deposits can accumulate, forming extensive salt beds. The study of these deposits provides insights into Earth’s history and environmental changes.

In the kitchen, salt’s chemistry influences the taste and texture of food. It acts as a flavor enhancer by reducing bitterness and enhancing sweetness. Moreover, salt affects the texture of proteins, altering their solubility and making meats more tender.

Similarities Between MSG and Salt

  • Both MSG and salt act as flavor enhancers in food.
  • They are commonly present in crystal or powder form.

Difference Between MSG and Salt


MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a compound containing sodium, glutamate, and water. Salt, on the other hand, is primarily composed of sodium and chloride ions.


MSG enhances the umami flavor, providing a savory or meaty taste to dishes, whereas salt adds a salty taste to food without specifically enhancing umami.


While MSG is often derived from the fermentation of starches, sugarcane, or molasses, salt is obtained from the evaporation of seawater or mining deposits.

FAQ: MSG and Salt

What does MSG do to your body?

MSG has been linked with obesity, metabolic disorders, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, neurotoxic effects, and detrimental effects on the reproductive organs.

Are MSG and Ajinomoto the same?

Yes, MSG and Ajinomoto are the same.

Is MSG toxic to the liver?

No, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is generally not considered toxic to the liver when consumed in moderate amounts.


MSG is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid naturally found in certain foods like tomatoes and cheese. It often adds umami, a savory taste, to various dishes, enhancing the overall flavor. On the other hand, salt, or sodium chloride, is a fundamental seasoning that not only adds a salty taste but also plays a crucial role in balancing flavors and promoting various chemical reactions during cooking. Thus, this is the main difference between MSG and salt.


1. “Monosodium Glutamate.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Salt.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Monosodium glutamate crystals” By Ragesoss – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Mason Jar Filled with Salt” (CC0) via Pexels

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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