What is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Yogurt, fruit, nuts and oats in a wooden bowl

We’ve all heard of probiotics and prebiotics, but how many of us actually know what they are and why they’re good for us? Well, get your microscopes out, we are taking a look!

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

The main difference is, probiotics are live bacteria that live within food, whereas prebiotics are types of fibre that these friendly bacteria live on in your gut. This means you need both of them to make your digestive system work at its top capacity. If you think that you’re not getting enough of either in your system, you can purchase both probiotic supplements and prebiotic supplements, or obtain them naturally through some great food sources.

What are Probiotics?

We’re constantly told that live cultures in yogurt are good for our gut health, but what does this really mean? The idea of something living in your yogurt doesn’t sound too appealing, but it turns out it’s pretty important! These ‘good’ bacterias are fundamental when it comes to keeping our digestive systems functioning properly. Good for us, there are some great vegan sources of probiotics as well.

Digestion and Immunity

Our gut is home to good and bad bacteria. Maintaining the right balance is incredibly important – no one likes having an upset stomach! As bacteria are often thought of as the bad guys, it may come as a surprise that our body needs colonies of bacteria in order to stay healthy. This healthy bacteria helps to break down and digest food, produce vitamins and battle with other bad bacteria that threaten to take over.

In terms of improving your immune system, probiotics have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies. They’ve also been shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut, keeping you safe from any outside nasties!

Research also suggests that good bacteria not only helps our physical health, but our mental health. This research suggests a correlation between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, meaning probiotics could be a future treatment of depression and anxiety. Of course, more research is needed into this subject, but the relationship between food and mood is becoming increasingly part of conversations.

What are Probiotic Foods?

There’s a great variety of healthy foods that are natural probiotics. These probiotic foods contain good bacterias, and although sometimes have unfamiliar names like lactobacillus, they are commonly found within familiar dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir.

However, there are also some amazing vegan probiotics that you can incorporate into your everyday diet. The key is fermented foods which include:

  • Sauerkraut probiotic – A much loved fermented cabbage dish from northern and Eastern Europe. On top of being a probiotic powerhouse, sauerkraut is also loaded with vitamin C and B vitamins, and can be used as a delicious side dish, be added to sandwiches or part of Eastern European main meals.
  • Kimchi Probiotics – A traditional spicy Korean dish of fermented vegetables, the most common of which are napa cabbage and daikon radish. Kimchi is loaded with probiotics, vitamins and antioxidants and is used for every meal. Although most Kimchi is made with added seafood and therefore not suited to those on plant based diets, it’s easy enough to make your own.
  • Kombucha – The ancient Chinese called it the “Immortal Health Elixir” because of its probiotics health benefits, which are said to help with cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases. This fermented black tea has a slightly sour and fizzy taste, but is a great source of dairy-free and gut-friendly bacteria.
  • Sourdough bread- A probiotic friendly and easy alternative to your daily lunch sandwich habit, which will leave you feeling fuller for longer.
  • Olives in brine contains large amounts of probiotics because the brine allows the probiotic cultures to thrive. Olives can be pretty salty, so eat them in moderation, sprinkled on top of veggie pizzas, in salads or just as a tasty snack on their own.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that help feed the friendly bacteria that probiotic foods supply. This means you need a good amount of both to reach your optimum gut health – they’re a team so they work best together!

Prebiotics, Gut Health and Immunity

One of the things that good gut bacteria does is turn prebiotic fibre into a fatty acid called butyric acid. The main benefit of this acid is that it gives your colon cells energy – in fact, this acid provides your colon cells with 70% of the energy they need. This acid goes by a couple of different names including butyrate and butanoic acid, but whatever the name, it’s all the same goodness!

Keeping your gut bacteria healthy is a great way to protect yourself against any harmful bacteria and fungi. One study shows that keeping this good bacteria in check can even help your immune system function properly. Along with other fatty acids, the good gut bacteria helps to create a strong gut barrier against unwanted substances, viruses and bad bacteria.

Prebiotic foods

A great way to get those prebiotics into your body is through certain prebiotic foods. They’re found mostly in different fruits, vegetables and legumes and are easy to implement into any diet. Some of the best prebiotics include:

  • Legumes, beans and peas – This terrific trio provides so many health benefits and are super versatile – you can put them in a vegan chilli, salad or even soup. Not only are they a treat for the taste buds but they’re going to keep your gut happy too – what a win!
  • Garlic – Bad news if you’re a vampire, but great news for humans! Garlic is full of prebiotics and you can use it in nearly every meal, and even add it to water! Plus it’s a great excuse to add some garlic bread as a side dish – it’s all for your digestive health after all!
  • Bananas are full of all kinds of goodness like vitamins and minerals, but they’re also full of prebiotic fibre! They help increase the healthy gut bacteria and have been found to minimise bloating. Now that’s a clever snack!
  • Cocoa – Great news for all you chocolate lovers out there! Turns out, cocoa isn’t just delicious, it’s great for your health as well. The breakdown of cocoa beans in the colon produces nitrous oxide which benefits the cardiovascular system. So it’s good for your heart and your gut!
  • Oats have incredible prebiotic benefits due to containing beta-glucan fiber which has any array of health properties from lowering cholesterol, to being a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Probiotics and prebiotics are vital to keep everything in our bodies moving smoothly and keeping our immune system in tip top condition! Working in harmony with each other, the probiotics provide the good gut bacteria and the prebiotics provide them with the food they need to survive and work their magic. They’re found in such a wide variety of foods that there’s something for even the fussiest of eaters. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the importance of gut health and do your best to keep yours working efficiently!

If you’re still not done learning, why not check out some more of our health and wellness blogs? From immune boosting foods to vegan calcium sources – there’s a Nakd blog for everyone!

 

Discover more

Jug of pink drink with summer fruits

Top 10 Non-Alcoholic Cocktails for Summer

Read more

The Pip Beauty Box

Amazing Self-Care Packages To Treat Yourself To

Read more

beach huts on British seaside

Staycation ideas: how to make the most of your British summer

Read more

x
Hi There

Shop now