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Prebiotics vs Probiotics: What’s The Difference? (+How To Use)

Written by Shelby Torrese

Are you tired of wondering the differences between prebiotics vs probiotics? All of your gut health questions are answered in this beginners guide to pre- and probiotics.

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Prebiotics and probiotics have become buzzwords in recent years that have ignited a sense of overall uncertainty among men and women everywhere. What are the benefits of probiotics vs prebiotics? Am I getting enough of them? When should I take probiotics? The questions continue to unravel as the information about these complex, yet necessary, organisms can be contradictory, and downright confusing. In our blog today, I’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about prebiotics and probiotics in a simple, easy-to-digest manner (no pun intended). I’ll also help navigate answers to what the best prebiotic supplement is, when a prebiotic supplement is necessary, and how exactly they work.

prebiotics vs probiotics


Prebiotics vs Probiotics

The biggest difference between prebiotics vs probiotics is actually quite simple. Probiotics are bacteria that help to extract nutrients from our food. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that act as fuel for probiotics to be able to do their job. So, in short, think of prebiotics as food for probiotics, and probiotics as extractors of the food we eat.




What Are Prebiotics?

As previously mentioned, prebiotics are dietary fibers (primarily indigestible carbohydrates) that act as food, or fuel, for probiotics to feed off of. This symbiotic relationship is sometimes referred to as microbiome therapy, or mutualism. [1] While probiotics get a majority of the credit and buzz, prebiotics are actually necessary for probiotics to even be able to do their job.

prebiotic foods


Types of prebiotic fiber

Prebiotics are found in many different fiber-rich foods, however, not all fiber-rich foods are prebiotics. (Confusing, I know!) To make it a little easier to understand, I’m going to break up types of prebiotics into carbohydrate prebiotics and non-carbohydrate prebiotics. 

Carbohydrate prebiotics are oligosaccharides. These are differentiated by their resistance to hydrolysis by various digestive enzymes. This means that instead of being broken down in the intestines, they are able to travel to the colon before any breakdown occurs. [2] An example of carbohydrate prebiotics are whole grains.

Non-carbohydrate prebiotics are compounds such as flavanols, which are a type of polyphenol. Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plants, that when consumed, act as a protector or antioxidant. [3] An example of non-carbohydrate prebiotics are apple skins.


Benefits of prebiotics

Healthy consumption of prebiotics offer lowered risk of cardiovascular diseases, and lower body weights. [4] Because prebiotics are essentially fiber, proper intake will also support appetite control. Due to fiber’s dense chemical makeup, it tends to make us feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. Think of oats, which are a type of carbohydrate prebiotic, being a whole grain. Just ½ of a cup of oats will fill you up for hours, whereas ½ cup of salad would probably leave you starving.

Additionally, prebiotics have been shown to increase gut health immunity. Healthy prebiotic intake can help prevent or lessen your risk of diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and even necrotizing enterocolitis in children. [5] Though, please note that any changes in diet or added prebiotic supplement for children should always, always first be discussed with their pediatrician or primary care doctor.


When should I take prebiotics?

Just like any successful supplement routine, prebiotics are best taken on a regular schedule. If remembering to take them every morning works best for you, stick with that. If you prefer lunchtime, go with that! Every person will differ, and one fixed time of day will not work for every person. Find your groove, set a timer if you need to, and be sure to take your favorite prebiotic supplement daily!


Best prebiotic supplement

The best prebiotic supplement is one that contains a strong, reliable fiber such as acacia fiber. It should also contain fiber-rich, prebiotic vegetables such as artichokes. Nearly all prebiotic supplements on the market are missing one of these requirements, and are totally missing out on the effectiveness of prebiotics in doing so. Both Skinny Greens and Beauty Juice contain unique blends of superfoods and prebiotics that meet and exceed these two requirements. BONUS! These two superfood powders actually taste delicious. Most prebiotic powders have to be masked by other foods or ingredients to choke down, but not SkinnyFit’s! Skinny Greens and Beauty Juice can be added to water alone, or even mixed together, for a delicious, healthy prebiotic drink!

skinny greens and beauty juice superfood powders




What Are Probiotics?

Delving a little deeper into our initial breakdown of prebiotics vs probiotics, plain and simple, probiotics are bacteria. Don’t freak out, I’m just calling it like it is! The word bacteria has a negative connotation, but in reality, there are both harmful and beneficial types of bacteria. So beneficial in fact, that they are integral to our livelihood. Our bodies contain over 1,000 species of 100 trillion good bacteria. [6] Probiotics help our intestines to break down food and are vital for digestive health. 


Types of probiotics

Probiotics can be taken via foods or supplements. Probiotic-rich foods are easily distinguishable by their fermentation. Kombucha, kefir, miso, and apple cider vinegar are all great examples of probiotic-rich foods. Not all fermented foods are created equally though! Sourdough and commercial pickles, for example, undergo heat treatment (baking and boiling) and kill the “alive” probiotics as a result. Thus, not making them probiotics, even though they’re ‘fermented’. This is why you sometimes see probiotic supplements in the refrigerated section of the grocery, as heat can severely alter a probiotic’s CFU count. (We get into what that means in our Best Probiotic Supplement section.) 

what are probiotics


Benefits of probiotics

Our digestive system can’t extract all of our food’s nutrients alone. You may be thinking, why not? Our bodies are so incredibly strong, and also have so many continuous tasks on the agenda each second of the day. So while in reality, our bodies can and do extract nutrients from our foods without added probiotics. Additional healthy doses of probiotics help our bodies out by extracting even more nutrients from our food so that we are getting as much nutritive value out of our meals as possible. Think of eating a salad. Would you rather be getting, say, 75% of the vitamins and minerals available or all 100%? That 15% leap comes from the help of probiotics. 

Probiotics have also been shown to improve immune function, and improve the integrity of our intestine wall. Studies have seen probiotics showcase therapeutic effects for various immune-response related illnesses and diseases, such as allergies, eczema, viral infections, and even vaccination responses. [7] You have may heard that our gut is like a second brain. This is true in the sense that the health of our gut essentially sets the tone for the health of the rest of our body. Take care of your gut, take care of your health!


When should I take probiotics?

The question of “when should I take probiotics” has been long debated. After years of testing, research shows that successful probiotic intake should be taken before eating or just as you begin a meal. [8] As for frequency, the same goes for prebiotic supplements. In order to be successful, probiotics are best taken on a regular daily schedule. With SkinnyFit’s delicious options for getting in your probiotics, it shouldn’t be an issue remembering to take them. Set a timer or mark it on your daily to-do list and experience your gut health absolutely transform!


Best probiotic supplement

I’ve tried just about every probiotic supplement out there. The capsules, the yogurts, the refrigerated ones, the expensive ones, you name it. So when I say that SkinnyFit Belly Balance is the best, I’m not biased. It’s truly the only one that has worked for me. It not only helps support a healthy digestive system and calm bloating, but it also works to flush out toxins and promote overall balance. Probiotic supplements are often rated based on their colony-forming units, or CFU’s. Adults are recommended to take between 1 billion and 10 billion CFU’s per day. [9] With 500 million CFU’s in Skinny Greens and Beauty Juice each, just one scoop of each daily sets you right in line for a healthy dose of probiotics!

Skinnyfit belly balance probiotics

The Bottom Line: Prebiotics vs Probiotics

If you’re still scratching your head about the biggest prebiotics vs probiotics claims, here is an easy-to-follow chart for you to reference. It breaks down the relationship between prebiotics and probiotics, all of the differences between the two, and what the best prebiotic supplement and probiotic supplement options are.

READ NEXT: How To Use Collagen For Leaky Gut: Everything You Need To Know (+Treatment Plan)

prebiotics vs probiotics

About The Author

Shelby Torrese

Nutrition, Movement & Meditation Coach

Shelby Torrese is a wellness enthusiast (and matcha fanatic!) from Miami, FL. She attributes her love of movement to her mom, a personal trainer, and her love of food to her dad, a farmer. She studied creative writing in college while getting her yoga certification, and went on to pursue fitness and nutrition in grad school. Her go-to advice is, “Balance,” and she is a firm believer that the ocean can cure just about everything.

  • Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher
  • NASM Certified Nutrition Coach
  • M.S. in Human Performance


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