In the midst of health crazes and fitness blogs, “probiotic” has become another popular health buzzword in 2017. If you don’t know much about the trending term, it is a healthy bacteria that helps your gut function, boosts your immune system, might even ward off everything from depression to diarrhea, and can be found in fermented foods, supplements for your digestion, or your face creams (because yes, your gut can even affect your acne).

While everyone should be taking a probiotic for a range of health (and beauty!) benefits, just a probiotic may not be enough. In order to make sure your probiotic is actually doing its job, you should be making sure you’re getting enough prebiotic. Don’t be fooled by how similar these names sound — probiotics and prebiotics have entirely different functions.

So What’s the Difference?


Probiotics are the good kind of bacteria, which is delivered to your gut and will continue to grow in order to balance your microbiome for a wide range of health benefits. Live probiotics (sometimes referred to as “active cultures,” but that sounds too much like a strep test to me) are available in fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and miso, or you can opt for the bacteria in dry form through powders, tablets, and capsules.

Prebiotics are certain fibers that feed the existing good bacteria that is already in your gut, so it continues to grow and stay healthy. If you’re not getting any prebiotics, the good bacteria you’re digesting with your probiotic won’t be able to flourish. The benefits of prebiotics in themselves are vast, beyond just assisting probiotics. They can assist in weight loss, regulate hormones, and reduce stress, to name a few.

How to Get Prebiotics Just from Your Diet

Prebiotics can come naturally from many foods like garlic, onions, bananas, asparagus, leeks, and chicory root (which is used in coffee substitutions — you’re welcome). It’s important to remember that raw foods have more prebiotic fibers than cooked foods, so if you’re depending on these foods for prebiotics and cooking them in your meals, you might want to reconsider. A banana in your smoothie or raw onions and asparagus on your salad are some great examples of adding these raw, prebiotic-rich foods to your diet.

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