Prebiotics and Probiotics and How to Incorporate More Into Your Diet
3 minutes read

Prebiotics and Probiotics and How to Incorporate More Into Your Diet

By: Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

In recent years, the importance of gut health has transformed from a novel topic to a central pillar of overall wellness. Our “gut” refers to our gastrointestinal system, which we now know plays a critical role in our digestive health, immune system, and more. Prebiotics and probiotics are commonly recommended in the diet to support the health of our gut and beyond.

Keep reading to learn the importance of fostering your gut health, the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, and how they work together to support health.


Importance of Gut Health

Your gut, i.e. your digestive system, does not work in a silo - it is intricately connected to various organ systems throughout the body.

Your gut microbiome is at the center of it all—a dynamic and intricate ecosystem that influences everything from immune function and mental health to weight management and chronic disease prevention. Over time, diets have become less diverse in the number of healthful foods we eat, which can contribute to a reduced diversity of beneficial bacteria in our gut.1

Because of this, it’s vital to adopt a lifestyle that supports and nurtures a working gut to avoid unwanted health complications.


Explanation of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics work together as a team to support gut health, but they should not be used interchangeably.

Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that promote the growth of your good bacteria (i.e. the probiotics). They’re often thought of as the food the probiotics need to eat in order to thrive.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast residing in your gastrointestinal tract that have beneficial health outcomes. Many people refer to probiotics as the “good bacteria” you want to have more of in your body.

Both prebiotics and probiotics can be found in foods naturally, such as fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods and beverages. Because of their benefits, they are also added to packaged foods such as ice creams, protein powders, and functional beverages to provide additional health benefits.


How They Work Together to Promote Gut Health

Research shows that when paired together, prebiotics and probiotics work in harmony to improve gut health. Because they work so well together, food products and supplements intentionally combine them to create what is known as synbiotics.2

The probiotic bacteria feed off the prebiotic fibers, fostering their growth, energy, and continuing their journey to your intestinal tract.

Together, prebiotics and probiotics diversify the types of bacteria that make up the gut microbiome. This enhanced bacterial diversity can improve digestive health, reduce inflammation, and benefit immune function.

The following are the possible benefits of consuming more prebiotics and probiotics regularly.


Improved Digestion

Aside from food, prebiotics and probiotics are some of the most commonly used ingredients taken to manage gut dysbiosis, a persistent imbalance of the bacteria in the gut.3

Probiotics can improve digestion in several ways - by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria, decreasing the amount of harmful bacteria, and improving overall gut function.4

The intended effect is a more robust protective barrier in the digestive tract from bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause digestive issues and disease.5


Boosted Immunity

Several studies have also shown probiotics and prebiotics can reduce the growth of harmful organisms in the gut and support a healthy immune response. Probiotics can support immunity for many people but may be more beneficial in those with digestive diseases like irritable bowel disease.6,7,8

Research shows that prebiotics also play a role in immunity by protecting the intestinal barrier from toxins, activating immune cells, and regulating immune pathways.6


Reduced Inflammation

Your diet choices can either promote inflammation or reduce it. Since inflammation is associated with several chronic diseases, reducing it is beneficial. Probiotics and prebiotics are seen to reduce inflammatory markers and, therefore, inflammatory responses.9

These inflammation-reducing benefits may be more apparent in those with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel disease. In addition, research shows taking probiotics and prebiotics before and immediately after surgery is associated with improved surgical outcomes, such as reduced infection and complication rates.10,11

While different strains of probiotics may provide different benefits, there is an emerging link between probiotics and a reduction in overall inflammation.12


Mental Health

The brain and the gut are intricately connected, where the health of one can affect the other. Several studies point to the presence of this gut-brain connection, where probiotics and prebiotics can play a role in supporting mental health.

In one study, people who consumed probiotic and prebiotic foods reported reduced depression, anxiety, and stress.13

Another study showed they have the potential to improve mental health and function, which may be beneficial for those with depression or anxiety. In particular, they may be more effective in improving symptoms of mild to moderate depression as opposed to more severe depression.14,15

While more large, long-term studies are needed, the presence of probiotics and prebiotics are certainly an added benefit to healthy foods.


Food Sources of Prebiotics

  • Prebiotics are found naturally in fiber-rich foods such as:
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Chicory root (contains inulin, a gut-friendly ingredient added to food products)
  • Artichokes
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Whole grain or whole wheat products
  • Flaxseeds
  • Soy foods

Prebiotics are also added to some food products such as:

  • Greens and protein powders
  • Functional beverages
  • Ice creams

Including a variety of these prebiotic foods in your diet or even just one of them to start, can improve your overall health.


Food Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods and added to food products, often along with prebiotics, like inulin, to improve their health profile.

Fermented foods:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir - a fermented yogurt drink
  • Miso
  • Tempeh - fermented soybeans
  • Kombucha - a fermented tea

Foods and beverages that may have probiotics added include:

  • Functional beverages
  • Granola bars
  • Protein and greens powders
  • Ice creams

Combining foods in these categories can help you get in enough of these beneficial ingredients at the end of the day.


Tips for Adding More to Your Diet

There are a few easy ways to add more probiotics and prebiotics to your diet to support digestion and optimal health.

Include fermented foods

Include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh regularly to enjoy natural sources of probiotics.

Eat Plenty of Fiber

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that naturally include prebiotic fibers that nourish healthy gut bacteria.

Search for Products with Added Probiotics and Prebiotics

You can sneak in more probiotics and prebiotics into your day by choosing packaged products with added prebiotics and probiotics.

Look for the terms “Live and active cultures” on the food label to indicate probiotics are present, and “inulin” or “chicory root” for evidence of prebiotic fibers.

Our new Keto Pint Zero Added Sugar Cream Bars contain both live active cultures and chicory root fiber for the best of both worlds. Plus, they are only 70 calories.

Include these cream bars when your next sweet craving hits to sneak in some extra probiotics and prebiotics into your life.


This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, prescribe, or treat any illness or condition, nor does it take the place of sound medical advice. You should always seek out your own medical care and determine the best diet and course of treatment for your unique health needs.



  • Prebiotics and probiotics play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which is linked to overall health and well-being.
  • Knowing how to incorporate more prebiotics and probiotics into their diet can help improve digestion, boost immunity, and potentially reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.
  • By making informed choices about your diet and including more prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods, you can take proactive steps toward better gut health and overall wellness.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.