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The Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics – Step to Health

While both are beneficial for health, the difference between probiotics and prebiotics is essentially their function and location.

Millions of microbes live in our cells: Microbiota. Most of them are found in the intestine, and this is known by the name intestinal flora. All of these gut bacteria can be divided into two: those with beneficial effects and those with harmful effects.

The latter can cause diarrhea, infections or intestinal rot. On the other hand, beneficial bacteria help control harmful bacteria, stimulate the immune system, reduce gas and improve digestion.

Also the human body to synthesize certain vitamins and absorb certain nutrients needs them too.

Therefore, it is very important to maintain the health and balance of your gut flora in order to be in a good mood and healthy. Well, What role do prebiotics and probiotics play in them?

We will explain this in detail below.


The main differences between probiotics and prebiotics

To preserve the goodness of your gut flora, you should do two basic things:

  • Use probiotics to make sure you constantly supply live microbes in your body.
  • Also, use prebiotics to give good food to microbes already living there.

These two short sentences summarizes the main difference between probiotics and prebiotics. Now we will dig deep into each of them and discover the most important resources.

Prebiotics are the “food” of your intestinal flora


Prebiotics are foods that reach colon intact and cannot be digested. Once they get there, they feed your gut bacteria that contain the appropriate enzymes to break them.

When they turn into food for gut bacteria, stimulate its growth and activity and eventually improve the health of the host (human) who hosts them.

For a food ingredient to be considered a prebiotic, it must have three properties:

  1. It cannot be broken down or absorbed in the stomach and small intestine.
  2. When it reaches the intact inside the colon, it should be fermented by bacteria.
  3. This fermentation should support activity and the acceleration of certain gut bacteria that have beneficial effects on humans.

The most studied prebiotics to date, There have been different types of fiber found in herbal foods. Specifically, we can list them as fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and inulin.

But you can find useful ingredients for your gut flora in many other foods:

  • Some fiber types in onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, seeds (chia and flax), potatoes, carrots, and apples, among other foods, are good sources of prebiotics.
  • Polyphenols in cocoa, granular fruits and spices.
  • Fats in olive oil, nuts and oily fish.

What are probiotics?

Now you know what prebiotics are. Let’s look at the concept of probiotics to understand the difference between the two. The term probiotic means “pro-life”.

The most widely accepted recipe for probiotics is formulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Food and Agriculture Organization. These organizations describe probiotics as follows:

“Live microorganisms that, when taken in sufficient quantities, benefit the person in health.”

Here we are talking about providing bacteria inside and outside of them, not feeding our bacteria. Many probiotics come from bacteria used in food fermentation. The most studied ones are genera lactobacillus and bifido bacteria.

You can find probiotics in foods and nutritional supplements.

Basic probiotic foods

two bowls of yogurt
Plain yogurt is one of the most popular and accessible probiotic foods. However, you can also find these bacteria in other foods and supplements.

We can say that yogurt is the most affordable food rich in probiotics.. Since a good plain yogurt has both lactobacillus and streptococcus, you don’t need to add anything to it. Kefir is also ideal, as it contains a larger amount of different bacterial subspecies.

Another good source of probiotics are fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, cucumber pickle or gherkin pickle. Asian cuisine includes miso (fermented soybean paste) and tempeh (fermented soybeans). Finally, at the end of the probiotic food list, kombucha, a light carbonated beverage that has become very popular in recent years, can be added.


Final notes on the differences between prebiotics and probiotics

The best way to summarize the difference between prebiotics and probiotics to understand that the two have different but complementary actions.

Therefore, if you consume only probiotics and do not feed them well with prebiotics, you will not help your body. However, do not miss new developments. Scientific studies on prebiotics and probiotics are increasing. These studies can provide many new concepts and findings.


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