How Long Different Foods Take to Digest and Why It’s Important to Know

Have you ever wondered what happens to your food after you ingest it? I did. Now I could make a map with the whole process. Here’s what I found out and you should know, too, because it’s very useful. Plus, you should know how your body works and what happens inside of it.

Digestion is not a norm. Each person is different, and the digestion period is different from one person to another. Some people have a higher metabolism rate, while others have a lower one. Some people can take longer to digest (just like snakes), while others have a fast belly movement. Why is that and how it happens? Let’s find out.

What Is Digestion

Digestion is not only happening in your belly. It actually starts in the mouth. By definition, digestion is the process that decomposes food into smaller and then even smaller substances, until they are small enough to be absorbed and then assimilated through the small intestine and the large intestine into your body.

The digestions system takes place in the gastrointestinal tract that starts in the mouth and ends at the anus. It measures about 9 meters.

Stages of Digestion

Digestion goes through 2 main stages: the mechanical digestion and chemical digestion.

It All Begins In Your Mouth

Digestion begins in your mouth where your teeth grind the food into small chunks and mix it with saliva.

Saliva contains:

certain enzymes that break down the starch, fats, and protein in food
mucus to lubricate the food and make it easier to slide down your throat
hydrogen carbonate which keeps the mouth’s pH alkaline
Down Into the Stomach

The chewed food is then swallowed into the esophagus through muscular movements, down the throat. These waving movements push the chewed bolus of food into the stomach.

In the stomach, it is met by the gastric juices that contain hydrochloric acid and pepsin, which are very corrosive and are meant to digest the proteins from food. At the same time, your stomach secrets a mucus to protect its wall against these corrosive acids. This way, only the food will be attacked and transformed by these strong acids.

The muscular contractions (called peristalsis) continue in the stomach, mixing the food with the digestive enzymes. This whole process of digestion lasts for about 1-3 hours in the stomach.

Further Into the Small Intestine

When the solid food has become a thick, viscous liquid into your stomach, the pyloric sphincter opens, and this liquid slowly goes into your duodenum. Here, other digestive enzymes (secreted by the pancreas) and bile juice (secreted by the liver) come into action and mix with it.

All this mixture advances towards the small intestine, where the food continues to be digested. When this partially digested liquid food is completely digested in the small intestine, the process of absorption of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and sugars into the lymphatic system begins. Some of them are reabsorbed into the blood through the walls of the large intestine (colon).

This process lasts between 6 to 8 hours.

1. WATER

Enters into the intestines immediately.

2. FRUIT OR VEGETABLE JUICE
15-20 minutes

3. RAW VEGETABLES
30-40 minutes

4.COOKED VEGETABLES
40 minutes

5. FISH
45-60 minutes

6. SALAD WITH OIL
1 hour

7. STARCH VEGETABLES
1.5-2 hours

8. GRAINS (RICE, BUCKWHEAT, QUINOA)
2 hours

9. DAIRY
2 hours

10. NUTS
3 hours

11. CHICKEN
1.5-2 hours

12. BEEF
3 hours

13. LAMB
4 hours

14. PORK
5 hours

The Big, Long, Dirty Road – The Large Intestine

The semi-liquid food, depleted of nutrients has transformed into a semi-solid matter (feces) and goes into the large intestine. The digested food can remain in the large intestine between 12 to 47 hours until it is expelled out of the body.

A process of fermentation occurs with the help of the gut flora (bacteria). What’s left after the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of the food is called waste products and is finally eliminated out of your body through the anus.

This is how digestion finally ends.

It all lasted (more or less) about 50 hours.

6 Factors That Influence the Digestion Process

The type of food you eat – some foods are easier to digest (juices, fruits, vegetables), while others take longer to process (meat, pasta, pastry, beans, processed food, fried food).
The quantity of food – of course, smaller portions are easier to digest than larger ones.
Gender – it seems that generally, men digest food faster than women.
Metabolism – some people have an accelerated metabolism rate, while others a slower one.
Digestive problems – diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, lactose intolerance, etc. may slow down digestion.
Other health problems – may contribute to a slower digestion.

9 Practical and Effective Steps to Improve Digestion

1.Eat more foods that are a great source of fibers, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as these speed up the intestinal movement.

2.Avoid and even eliminate heavily processed, fried, greasy food.

3.Eat smaller portions and avoid overeating. This can reduce the digestion period by half.

4.Chew your food slowly and many times (about 30 times) before you swallow it because this will help it break down easily inside your stomach and intestines.

5.Eat at regular hours – a chaotic lifestyle and eating habits lead to poor digestion patterns. That is why it’s important to schedule your meals at regular hours, at the same time every day (for example, at 7, 13, and 18), as your body prepares in advance for the whole process.

6.Use intermittent fasting, pausing eating for 8 to 12 hours, to accelerate your metabolism and allow your digestive system to rest.

7.Drink enough water – Water helps you eliminate toxins out of the body, boosts digestion, makes you feel full, helps you reduce the amount of food you eat, improves sleep, and even eliminates sugar cravings.

8.Consume probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi to maintain a healthy gut flora.

9.Do you like to move it, move it? – You have to move your body daily through simple physical exercises, dance, fitness, jogging, or even walking (for 15-30 minutes). They help your digestion, maintain your body fit and slim, improve metabolism, boost immunity and muscular tonus, and even stimulate your brain.

10.Sleep well – a good sleep during the night will help your body rest, regenerate, and will improve metabolism.

11.Don’t worry, be happy – what a wise saying. Indeed, stress contributes to poor health, while a happy mood and emotional balance improve health and digestion.

Do you eat more slow-digesting or fast-digesting foods? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!