Prebiotics vs. Probiotics

probiotic is live bacteria, specifically, living microorganisms that are good for you, unlike other pesky bacteria that cause illness. Its claim to fame is that it helps with digestion by cleaning out the gut and essentially improving the gut ‘flora,’ also called the gut microbiota.

Some studies have shown that probiotics help with allergies, regulate weight, and even protect your heart, but more conclusive studies are required. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement; many people take them after finishing antibiotics, as they replace the good bacteria that are lost.

Probiotics also can be found in abundance in certain types of foods. Fermentation, the process by which bacteria are allowed to grow, makes food a good source of probiotics. Not all food that is fermented, however, qualifies as a probiotic, so it’s best to check the label on any packaged food to confirm it contains a probiotic strain.

The following list is a sampling of the most common foods that are sources of probiotics:

Aged cheeses (examples: Gouda, mozzarella, Cheddar)
Buttermilk (uncultured)
Kombucha (a fermented tea)
Miso (a paste made from fermented soybeans)
Sauerkraut (unpasteurized)
Fresh, sour pickles (made in a brine of water and salt, not vinegar)
Sourdough bread
Tempeh (soy-based, often used as a meat substitute)
Yogurt (with live and active cultures)



is a type of soluble fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the colon and helps balance your microbiome. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics do not contain bacteria but are non-digestible carbohydrates. When a prebiotic and a probiotic are taken together, this is referred to as microbiome therapy; taking a prebiotic may increase the efficacy of the probiotic.

Like probiotics, prebiotics are also offered in supplement form and found in some common foods such as the following:

Jerusalem artichokes
Maple syrup
Red wine
Sprouted grain bread