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Food Digestion Time

Food Digestion Time

The type of food you eat and your digestive health determines the time required for digestion. This article provides information regarding the factors that affect the food digestion time.
Leena Palande
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2018
Digestive System
Digestion involves breaking down of food particles into small molecules, mixing the food with necessary enzymes, absorbing the essential nutrients into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining, and eliminating the undigested food residue through the large intestine.

It may take about 24 hours for the food to go through all these processes. The time to digest food varies from person to person, depending upon the type of food and the overall health of the person.
Human Digestive System
The Human Digestive System
The mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, and anus are some of the important parts of the digestive system. The journey of the food begins in the mouth and ends at the anus. For most healthy adults, the time required for the digestion of food is usually between 24-36 hours.
Digestive System
Usually, within 6-8 hours, the food passes through the first part of the gastrointestinal tract, i.e., stomach, and small intestine. From there, the food is passed over to the large intestine (colon). After further digestion and absorption of water, the undigested food is thrown out of the body through anus.
Slow and Fast Digestion of Food
Slow digestive system indicates wrong diet or stomach problems. Digestive-system disorders can be experienced due to improper eating or other health issues. Usually, selection of food depends upon the visual and olfactory cues. After churning the food with the help of the tongue and the teeth, you swallow the food.

The involuntary nervous system then manages the process of digestion. The swallowed food reaches the stomach within 8-10 seconds. Liquids reach the stomach within 1 second. The stomach can hold up to two quarts of food.
The time required to digest the food depends upon your mood too. The digestive enzymes in the stomach are released in higher quantities if you like the food, or you are in a state of contentment and happiness. The production of gastric juices is curbed in case of intense pain, fear, or depression.

Decreased quantity of enzymes is also noticed after the consumption of large meals or large amounts of fat. Thus, the secretion of digestive enzymes depends upon a number of factors, for example, how you chew the food, whether the food is attractive, etc. It also depends upon your mood and emotions.
The rate at which the stomach empties is quite slow: about 3/100 ounce per peristaltic wave (muscle contractions of the alimentary tract which helps move the food). The rate of muscle contraction is three waves per minute. Therefore, when you consume two pounds of food, it takes up to five hours to move the food from the stomach to the small intestine. The stomach empties fast when you are on a liquid diet as you consume only water and liquids.
The emptying time of the stomach depends upon the type of food consumed. Carbohydrates are digested more quickly than proteins. Proteins take less time to leave the stomach than fats. The digestion time also varies among the carbohydrates themselves to a great extent.

Moreover, a healthy combination of food promotes fast digestion. A high-fiber diet and adequate consumption of water helps prevent constipation, improves colon function, and thus improves your digestive health.
Time Taken By Food to Leave the Stomach
According to Lassiter Junior Cross Country Club, the following table describes the approximate time taken by different types of food to leave the stomach.

Category Food Held in Stomach for Minutes
Fruits watermelon 20
canteloupe, cranshaw, and honeydew 30
oranges, grapefruit, and grapes 30
apples, pears, peaches, and cherries 40
Vegetables raw tossed salad vegetables: tomato, lettuces, cucumber, celery, red or green pepper, and other succulent vegetables 30-40
Steamed or cooked vegetables leafy vegetables: escarole, spinach, kale, and collards 40
zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, yellow squash, and corn on cob 45
root vegetables: carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips 50
Semi-concentrated carbohydrates and starches jerusalem artichokes, leafy acorn, butternut squashes, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, and chestnuts 60
Grains (concentrated carbohydrates) brown rice, millet, buckwheat, cornmeal, and oats 90
Legumes and beans (concentrated carbohydrate and protein) lentils, limas, chickpeas, peas, pigeon peas, and kidney beans 90
soy beans 120
Seeds and nuts seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, pepita, and sesame 120
nuts: almonds, filberts, peanuts (raw), cashews, brazil, walnuts, and pecans 150-180
Dairy skim milk, cottage or low fat pot cheese, or ricotta 90
whole milk cottage cheese 120
whole milk hard cheese 200-300
Animal proteins egg yolk 30
whole egg 45
fish: cod, scrod, flounder, and sole seafood 30
fish (more fatty): salmon, salmon trout, and herring 45-60
chicken (without skin) 90-120
turkey (without skin) 120-135
beef, lamb 180-240
pork 270-300
Juices fruit vegetables and vegetable broth 15-20
Semi-liquid blended salad, vegetables, or fruits 20-30
Certain changes in your lifestyle and diet can help improve your digestive health. Therefore, you should eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.