Prebiotics and Probiotics: What’s the difference?

prebiotics probiotics gut health

prebiotics probiotics gut health

Prebiotics and probiotics. What’s the difference?

You’ve probably heard the words prebiotics and probiotics being thrown around – you might know that they have something to do with gut health. If you’re trying to navigate the minefield of pre- and probiotics, we have nutrition student Ariella (@nutritionbyariella) explaining the difference between the two, plus the various food sources. 


Prebiotics are dietary fibre that feed the gut microbiota, allowing them to produce nutrients in the gut, including short-chain fatty acids. Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found in certain foods or consumed in the form of supplements.


These can be found in many fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. They reduce the rate at which your blood sugar levels spike after consuming food and help absorb calcium too. Sources of prebiotics include:

  1. Chicory root

  • Approximately 68% of chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre inulin which improves digestion, gut transit and helps control blood glucose levels
  1. Dandelion greens

  • They have 1.92g fibre per 55g, lots of which comes from inulin, which helps increase your gut microbiota
  1. Garlic

  • Promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium, and prevents pathogenic bacteria growing
  • It has anti-tumour properties and helps to lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  1. Onion

  • They are rich in inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which help support your immune system and have antioxidant properties
  1. Leeks

  • These have similar health benefits to garlic and onion as they are from the same family
  1. Bananas

  • Unripe, green bananas have plenty of resistant starch, which has prebiotic effects
  1. Apples

  • These are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre, that can promote a healthy gut as it increases the production of short-chain fatty acids
  1. Flaxseeds

  • These are rich in prebiotics, encourage regular bowel movements and contain phenolic antioxidants
  1. Other sources include asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, barley, oats, and cocoa

prebiotics probiotics gut health


The 2 most common classes of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is some research suggesting probiotics can help with IBS-like symptoms, as well as symptoms of depression, since there is a strong connection between the gut and the brain (known as the gut-brain axis). Taking a probiotic whilst on a course of antibiotics is beneficial as antibiotics can’t distinguish between the good and bad bacteria, so wipe out your good bacteria too.

Sources of probiotics include:

  1. Yoghurt

  • It is made from milk that is fermented by lactic acid bacteria and Bifidobacteria
  • Not all yoghurt contains live probiotics, so ensure to choose the ones that have active or live cultures
  1. Kefir

  • This is a fermented probiotic drink made by adding kefir grains (cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast) to cow/goat’s milk (there are some vegan options too)
  1. Sauerkraut

  • Finely shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria which is rich in probiotics and vitamins C, B and K
  1. Tempeh

  • Fermented soybean which is a high-protein meat substitute
  1. Kimchi

  • This fermented Korean dish is usually made from cabbage with Lactobacillus bacteria
  1. Miso

  • Fermented soybeans with salt and a fungus

prebiotics probiotics gut health

Be Aware:

  • Probiotics are not regulated like medical drugs, so some products may claim they contain bacteria but not enough of it to have an effect, or may not survive long enough to reach your gut (may be killed by stomach acid).
  • There’s also a big difference in the pharmaceutical probiotics used in clinical trials compared to those found in yoghurts and supplements in shops, which may not be as potent.

I hope you found this post useful! For more nutrition tips and healthy recipes, check out my Instagram @elibrechernutrition

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