farm shop

Prebiotics and Probiotics – what’s the difference?

It’s easy to confuse these terms so here is the answer:

Prebiotics are foods that feed, nourish and help promote the good bacteria in the gut. By doing so they suppress the bad gut bacteria or pathogens. Prebiotics help keep your gut and digestive system healthy, they boost the immune system and they also help you stay regular.

Probiotics are naturally fermented foods comprising live bacteria which when consumed act to ‘top up’ the gut bacteria – again helping suppress the pathogens or bad bacteria.

Sources of prebiotics

Look at any farm shop like the image above and you will looking at prebiotics. They are typically high fibre foods, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Examples of prebiotics

Probably the best ‘portable prebiotics’ are bananas, pears, apples, watermelon, grapefruit and nuts. But legumes like beans, peas and pulses like chickpeas, lentils etc. are also all great fibre sources.

Great vegetables include onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, oats and bran, and leafy greens like spinach, kale, asparagus, and jerusalem artichokes. Seeds like flaxseed and chia are also very good. Mushrooms especially shiitake are also excellent sources.

Sources of probiotics

The best sources of probiotic foods are fermented foods like yoghurt, buttermilk, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha, pickles (but only pickled in salt and water not vinegar – this kills bacteria).


Artisanal natural cheeses which are technically ‘live’ (think French cheeses), traditional cheddars, gouda, mozzarella, cottage cheese and gruyere.

We are now producing wonderful cheeses in this country (even beating the French!) so look out for them at farmers markets.

Sourdough bread is both!

Sourdough bread acts as a prebiotic and a probiotic and it has lower amounts of gluten.


Antibiotics don’t just kill the bad bugs but they kill the good ones too! It’s a good idea to help ‘rebuild’ the gut during and after taking the medication. A good idea is to have both together like yoghurt and banana or artisanal cheese and sourdough!