Gut health small large intestine microbiome
4 min read
Many new food products and supplements contain prebiotics and probiotics, however it's important to understand the difference between the two...


Probiotics are strains of live beneficial bacteria, which are found in fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yoghurt and sauerkraut. 


Apart from some new supermarket products marketing their probiotic properties (such as cereals) many people are most familiar with probiotics taken as a supplement. The aim of probiotics is to restore the balance of our microbiome, particularly after the natural balance has been disrupted, for example through use of antibiotics. However, it's important to note that the evidence is still emerging on the health benefits of many strains of beneficial bacteria and taking these as supplements. So, as we wait for conclusive evidence, the experts at Eat Sustainably recommend people try to include foods naturally containing probiotics in their diet, such as kimchi, yoghurt or tempeh.



Prebiotics are the non-digestible fibres that feed the bacteria in our gut. While all prebiotics are fibre, not all fibres are prebiotics. In the case of prebiotics, dietary fibre passes through the digestive tract and is partially or completely fermented by the beneficial (or good) bacteria in our gut. 


This fermentation process produces short chain fatty acids, which provide a broad range of health benefits - from regulating appetite to helping maintain normal blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Short chain fatty acids also lower the pH in our gut and this affects which species and strains of bacteria can survive - lower pH limits the growth of some harmful bacteria.


While we can buy prebiotic supplements, many foods are naturally high in prebiotics, and these are generally fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains. Given the ongoing importance of prebiotics to maintaining the balance of microbiome, it's important to consume prebiotic fibres regularly, and the most environmentally sustainable way to do this, is to eat a variety of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and legumes.


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