What are the differences between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

What are the differences between Prebiotics and Probiotics? 

7 November, 2023

In the world of health, the terms ‘probiotics’ and ‘prebiotics’ are frequently used. Despite their common usage, only a few know the distinction between pre and probiotics.

Please continue reading below to gain a comprehensive understanding of both concepts and discern the distinctions between them.


What do probiotics entail? Probiotics are living microorganisms present in foods or supplements, aiding in the preservation or enhancement of beneficial bacteria within the body. Probiotics are vital in food digestion and the equilibrium between favorable and harmful bacteria. They are often referred to as the ‘friendly’ bacteria.

Types of Probiotics 

The most frequently consumed probiotics originate from two primary genera:

1. Bifidobacteria

This bacteria, found in foods and supplements, supports the immune system and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.

2. Lactobacillus

This genus of bacteria primarily produces lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in milk sugar. Lactobacillus bacteria also produce lactic acid, which helps control harmful bacteria. There are six common species of probiotics in food and supplements:

  •  B. animalis
  • B. breve
  • B. lactis
  • B. longum
  • L. acidophilus
  • L. reuteri

(Where B. and L. are abbreviations of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.)

Benefits of probiotics 

Probiotics offer various benefits:

  • Digestive health
  • Mental health
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • General health
Probiotic-rich foods 

If you’re experiencing digestive issues, incorporating probiotics into your diet can be beneficial. You don’t necessarily need to rely on supplements; instead, consider incorporating everyday foods containing probiotics into your meals. Probiotic-rich foods such as:

  • Yogurt

 Consuming yogurt offers multiple benefits, enhancing bone health and alleviating antibiotic-induced diarrhea.

  • Cheese

Cheese is crafted through a fermentation process, although not all types contain probiotics. Varieties like Swiss, Gouda, Cheddar, and Cottage cheese undergo fermentation and retain probiotic properties.

  • Buttermilk

Buttermilk is yet another probiotic-rich option with low fat and calorie content. It is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus.

  • Kimchi

Kimchi is seasoned with a blend of spices, cabbage, and various vegetables. This fermented dish is rich in lactic acid bacteria, enhancing its probiotic content.

  • Kombucha tea

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from green tea. Its fermentation process involves a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, known as SCOBY

  • Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage. Unlike cereals, kefir grains contain lactic acid bacteria. This probiotic-rich drink not only promotes bone health but also aids in digestive issues.

  • Tempeh

Tempeh is a product of fermented soybeans, which naturally contain phytic acid and minerals like zinc.

Fermentation is the process that imparts a sour taste to pickles. Typically, they contain lactic acid bacteria and serve as a rich source of vitamin K.

When consuming fermented foods, ensure they are not pasteurized, as this process can eliminate beneficial bacteria.


What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible food components that enhance the host’s health by selectively promoting the growth and activity of specific bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics, in the form of carbohydrates, are substances that the human gut cannot digest. They serve as nourishment for beneficial bacteria, helping to improve the balance of the gut microflora. Beneficial gut microorganisms ferment these non-digestible dietary elements, known as prebiotics, and derive energy by breaking down these indigestible prebiotic bonds. The advantages of prebiotics are closely linked to probiotic benefits.

Type of Prebiotics
  1. Galacto-oligosaccharides
  2. Fructans
  3. Starch and Glucose-Derived Oligosaccharides
  4. Other Oligosaccharides
  5. Non-Carbohydrate Oligosaccharides
Benefits of prebiotics to the body
  • Enhances calcium absorption.
  • Modifies the body’s carbohydrate processing rate.
  • Stimulates the growth of probiotic bacteria in the stomach, potentially enhancing digestion and metabolism.

Prebiotic supplements are unnecessary as prebiotics are naturally abundant in various foods.

Prebiotics-rich Foods

Prebiotics are plant fibers specifically modified to serve as fertilizers in the stomach, promoting the growth of beneficial microorganisms. Foods rich in prebiotic fibers include:

  • Oats, Barley, Bran

These contain fibers with antioxidant and immune-boosting properties.

  • Banana

Bananas are naturally rich in fibers that promote the growth of good bacteria while reducing gas and bloating.

  • Nuts

Nuts like almonds, pistachios, and flaxseeds are high in fiber content.

  • Garlic

Garlic serves as a source of prebiotics, enhancing the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

  • Onions

Onions are excellent prebiotic sources aiding digestion and offering antioxidant properties.

  • Leeks

Leeks, part of the onion family, are a valuable source of prebiotics.

  • Beans, Peas, and Legumes

Beans and legumes, rich in prebiotics, not only enhance gut health by increasing good bacteria but also provide high protein content.


The debate between probiotics and prebiotics is both lengthy and intriguing. The distinction lies in their composition and preparation methods. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that serve as nourishment for beneficial bacteria, aiding in their growth within the human gut. Probiotics, on the other hand, are living organisms that harmonize gut bacteria, enhancing overall gut health. These gut-friendly bacteria are indispensable for maintaining a healthy and contented gut.