Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods

Gut Harmony: Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

Publish Date February 5, 2024 3 Minute Read
Author Shelly Beck, RDN, LD

Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics are buzz words in the world of health and wellness, and for good reason. Let’s explore what they are, why they’re needed and how we get them.

What Are They?

Although they may sound similar, prebiotics and probiotics serve different functions in the body. Probiotics are live and active cultures, or healthy bacteria, found in certain foods. Prebiotics are fuel to support and feed healthy gut bacteria. Prebiotics are considered the food for probiotics and other good bacteria inside the body. They work together to make sure digestion is flowing smoothly.

Why Do We Need Them?

Prebiotics and probiotics are needed for good gut health, also known as a healthy gut microbiome. The microbiome consists of many tiny organisms called microbiota or microbes (which include bacteria, viruses and fungi). Microbes can have a positive or negative impact on one’s health. The balance can be changed by what we eat, certain medications and illnesses. Maintaining harmony between the good and bad microbes is important. Because probiotics are good bacteria (or good microbiota) and prebiotics feed that good microbiota and helps them thrive, it's safe to say that a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics is important.

Having a healthy gut plays a significant role in more than just digestion. Research suggests that the gut microbiome may be connected to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease, Type 2 diabetes and different allergic diseases. There may also be a link between gut bacteria and building a strong immune system. Gut health also plays a role in mental health, since there’s a connection between the gut and the brain. Therefore, stress and anxiety may alter the gut microbiome and throw off the balance between the good and bad gut bacteria.

How Do We Get Them?

Prebiotics and probiotics can be found in many different sources, including food and supplements. There are many great prebiotic and probiotic supplements on the market, but they should be supplemental to a healthy, balanced diet. There are many nutrient-dense and delicious ways to get prebiotics and probiotics from the foods you eat. Prebiotics are found in dietary sources of fiber. Sources of dietary fiber include whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread and oats. Legumes and beans are not only a plant-based protein option, but they’re also great sources of dietary fiber. Other sources include fruits and vegetables like asparagus, onions, garlic, citrus and berries. Try this Garlic Chickpea Spaghetti recipe for a fiber-filled meal (try making it with whole grain noodles for an additional fiber boost).

Probiotics are found in fermented foods and beverages such as kombucha, yogurt, kefir, kimchi and tempeh. This yogurt parfait recipe is a great option for a snack, with probiotics from the yogurt and prebiotics from the berries and granola.

While this is a new area of research, emerging evidence shows that eating a balanced plate that incorporates foods containing prebiotics and probiotics may positively impact health. By incorporating more foods with prebiotics and probiotics into your daily routine, you can start reaping the benefits today.

If you’re interested in learning more about prebiotics and probiotics and gut health, talk to a Kroger Health registered dietitian.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider

Prebiotic & Probiotic Recipes