Probiotics vs Prebiotics – What’s the Difference and Do You Need Both?

You have most likely heard of probiotics and prebiotics, but what are they and do you need them?

They are components of food that may improve health, specifically gut health. Gut health has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason – the gut’s bacterial composition affects us more than previously thought. It has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels, reduce bowel inflammation, and improve digestion. Although probiotic and prebiotic supplements are abundantly available and convenient, they are not necessary to use because you can find them in everyday food. One thing most people don’t know is in order to reap the benefits of probiotics you must consume prebiotics as well. The research on the effectiveness and safety of probiotics and prebiotics continues to grow, but there are multiple known health benefits thus far. So, what are they exactly?

Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria (live cultures) found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha. These cultures are similar to the bacteria naturally found in our GI system. They help to change or repopulate bacteria in GI to keep balance in your gut flora. This helps to boost GI health and reduce bowel inflammation. Probiotics can be helpful in managing GI distress and IBS.

Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not living organisms. They are non-digestible fibers that are consumed by probiotics and broken down into short-chain fatty acids. They help promote the growth of helpful bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. They are found in foods like bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat products.

Probiotics and prebiotics work together to promote a healthy, balanced gut flora. They should be consumed through food, rather than supplement for the most nutritional benefit. Try combinations like bananas with yogurt, or artichokes with tempeh as an easy way to consume both probiotics and prebiotics. Incorporating health-promoting probiotics and prebiotics into your day is key for a healthy gut.

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Check out these recipes for some inspiration of ways to use probiotic and prebiotic foods:

Tempeh and Broccoli Stir Fry – Dietitian Debbie Dishes

Berry-Kefier Smoothie – Eating Well

French Onion Dip – Kitchn


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About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Tom P

Since joining Performance, I have made huge gains. The process of recovering from knee surgery has been much easier because of the expertise of the Performance staff in helping me get back to full strength. I would recommend this gym to anyone.*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Kim C

Performance Fitness Member

“I joined Performance and it has changed my life. Gone are the days when I dreaded trying on clothes at the store, Thanks to Performance, I feel like a super fit mom.”*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Seth D

Performance Fitness Member

Under the guidance of trainers, I have been able to decrease my 5K time from 28 minutes to under 20 minutes in just 2 years.  I have also lost 30 pounds while increasing strength, endurance and power.*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Connie R

Training over the last few years at Performance has been the best health decision I have ever made.  Leslie, my current trainer, keeps me on track to stay fit and strong, makes our sessions interesting and challenging, and is always positive, even when I have setbacks.*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Barry C Testimonial
Barry C

Performance Fitness Member

“I am a competitive cyclist and have been in personal training at Performance for 6 years. The best part about the trainers is that they know our medical histories very well.  Leslie is great at modifying a training session specifically to each individual person’s limitations so as to avoid injury.”*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

Pat S

Performance Fitness Member

“I’m retired and enjoy a full, active life. This is due, in no small part, to the time I spend at Performance. The group classes provide a great workout and lots of variety. Plus, a fun way to meet new friends!”*

About Ashley Pearson, Registered Dietitian

Ashley Pearson, Registered DietitianAshley has been passionate about nutrition and physical activity since high school, where she developed her love for running and nutrition. Ashley has completed multiple marathons, and other road races, and understands how to properly fuel the body before, during, and after a workout, race, or game to maximize performance.

Ashley has had a variety of experiences from the food industry, to sports nutrition, to inpatient care. Prior to joining the Performance team, she spent 5 years in the Chicago area specializing in weight management, and medical nutrition therapy for chronic diseases.

In her free time, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, as well as running, cooking, and traveling.

*Results may vary