Time to Digest Foods and Why It’s Important

All foods digest in the body at different times. This is how long they sit in the stomach before passing into the intestine. It’s important to understand the different food digestion times to avoid digestive issues or discomfort.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome it’s worth checking you’re not compounding the problem by mixing foods that digest at different rates.

The times specified in this article are approximations as the exact digestion time does depend on the person and their age, health, metabolism and many other factors.

food digestion times

Fast digesting foods pass through your stomach quickly so will not fill you up. This makes it easy to overeat and taking in more calories and leading to weight gain. The biggest causes of weight gain from fast digesting foods is often fruit juice. This is calorific, high in sugar and easy to consume a large amount of.

Slow digesting foods will be absorbed at a steady rate supplying your body with constant energy. However your body will constantly need to work and it’s important not to consume too many slow digesting foods to avoid your digestive system getting overworked and never resting.

Avoid Mixing Fast and Slow Digesting Foods

It’s advised to avoid mixing slow and fast digesting foods in the same meal. Have the fast digesting foods first, such as fruit, then move onto the slower complex carbohydrates once the fruit is digested. Eating fruit after a heavy slow digesting meal can cause it to sit in the stomach and ferment causing gastric issues.

If you eat something while your body is still digesting the last meal it can cause discomfort and risks overloading your stomach.

How to Make Raw Cashew Nut Butter

For breakfast and dinner eat meals with quickly digested foods. You don’t want to overstress the body after its waking up or to be digesting foods while trying to sleep.

Lunch is the time to eat foods that have a mixture of different digestion times as the body is at it’s most productive. Something like a cashew cheesecake isn’t perfect food combining but lunch is the best time to eat it.

food digestion water

Water Digestion

On an empty stomach water leaves immediately and enters the intestines. It’s recommended to have a glass of water first thing in the morning before any food to hydrate yourself rapidly. Drink water half an hour before a meal, not because of digestion but to stop washing away nutrients.

food digest juice

Juices, Smoothies and Broths Digestion

Juices or broths contain no fibre and will be digested in about 15-20 minutes. Fresh juices are a useful way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables absorbed quickly. For health reasons, it’s recommended to have juices that are at least 50% vegetables to prevent having too much fruit sugar.

Smoothies are where fruit, vegetables or salad have been blended and retain the fibre. They are more useful than juices for filling you up as they take 20-30 minutes to digest.

food digest fruit

Fruit Digestion

Watermelons are digested in 20 minutes and other melons take 30 minutes. Oranges, grapefruit, grapes and bananas also take 30 minutes.

Most other fruit such as apple, pear, cherries, plums, kiwi takes 40 minutes to digest.

It’s recommended to only eat fruit together that is digested at the same time to avoid digestive issues and IBS. For this reason, watermelon should always be eaten on its own.

food digest veggies

Vegetable Digestion

Raw high water salad vegetables such as lettuce, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and radishes digest in 30 minutes.

Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy when cooked digest in 40 minutes.

Root vegetables, excluding potatoes, like beetroot, carrot and parsnip digest in 50 minutes.

Starchy vegetables such as butternut, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes and chestnuts digest in 60 minutes.

food digest quinoa

Grains and Concentrated Carbohydrates Digestion

Brown rice, buckwheat, oats and cornmeal take 90 minutes to digest.

Pulses and beans all take about 120 minutes to digest. This includes black beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans and soybeans.

Seeds and Nuts Digestion

All high-fat seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame take about 2 hours to digest. It’s recommended to soak your seeds like in my pumpkin seed candy to aid digestion.

Nuts all take around 3 hours to digest. This includes the legume peanuts and all other nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans and brazils.

Meat and Dairy Digestion

Nest and Glow is a plant based recipe site but for completion, I will include the digestion times for meat and dairy.

Skimmed milk and low-fat cheese products 90 minutes. Cottage cheese and soft cheeses 2 hours. Hard cheeses 5 hours.

Egg yolk 30 minutes and whole egg 45 minutes.

Non-oily fish 30 minutes and oily fish 50 minutes.

Chicken and turkey 2 hours, beef and lamb 4 hours and pork 5 hours.

Food Digestion Bottom Line

  • Always eat fruit before the main meal as it digests much quicker.
  • Avoid pure fruit juice and have at least 50% vegetables in a fresh juice to avoid having too much sugar.
  • Don’t overstress your body by eating foods with a long digestion time either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. This can cause insomnia.
  • Lunchtime is the best time to mix foods with different digestion times.
  • Digestion times are rough estimates and depend on the individual.

Have you tried adjusting your diet according to food digestion times? Has it helped solve issues with IBS? Please do let me know in the comments below.

If you have digestive issues that leave you in severe pain speak to a medical professional to investigate and do not diagnose yourself.

Tags: ,

79 thoughts on “Time to Digest Foods and Why It’s Important”

  1. I went for years thinking I couldn’t eat watermelon. If I did it returned the minute it hit my stomach, bring everything else I had eaten with it. Then I discovered food combining, and ta-da, 🙂 I can eat melon with NO problems! Now, I never eat any kind of fruits/melons with other foods.

  2. I’ve had so many tests for acid reflux and the feeling of food not digesting. All tests have come back normal. Some times we need to eat late after work and going to the gym which isn’t ideal. What would you suggest for this?

    1. Hi Ann, I would really speak to a professional I’m not qualified and really can’t diagnose online. Have you seen a dietician? I’ve found food combining and a food elimination diet have been the most useful for me. I really can’t handle eating late at night and the gym – I often have a break from work so I can go to the gym at 6-7. Then eat not too late and do more work afterwards, but understand that not all can be doing this. Let me know how you get on

      1. Sangeeta Chadha

        It is never recommended to work out after a late night meal.

        The basic principle for good digestion and health is to not do aggressive physical activity till 2 hours after any meal.
        Work out in the gym is best done on an empty stomach to avoid gastric reflux.

        1. Bastian Durward

          Hi there, that’s more or less what I was saying – trying to work, then go to the gym and not be exhausted but also get home for a meal soon enough so that you don’t eat too late that it interrupts your sleep can be challenging.

          1. Interesting that you don’t recommend foods that take a long time to digest in the morning. I so often see oatmeal as a top recommendation because it keeps you full longer. Not to mention that recipes often combine oats, fruit and seeds, all digesting at different rates.

            What do you recommend for breakfast? Smoothie with 60% veg?

          2. I think it’s a really personal thing and what works for one wont work for another. I tend to have something light first thing (7am) then a few hours later something more filling that digests longer. Years of getting up at 7am rushing something like oats before getting the train to work didn’t agree with my body and I felt better not doing that

          3. ehhh I cannot work out on an empty stomach I will pass out cuz my metabolism is way to fast , low blood pressure an. however a smoothie, or something light like Avocado toast with fruit on the side. But I do not advise a person specifically wait 2 hours; it would depend on what they ate. As well as when you exercise your burning calories and fat; which in turn also boost your metabolism. But the major key of this article is paying attention to the order in which you eat your food because every category of food has a different digestion time. As well as paying attention to your own body’s metabolism; especially id you have stomach disorders such as IBS or gastritis

          4. Bastian Durward

            Hi there, I think we’re all different and we have to find what works for us as one size will not fit all. I’m currently working out every day on an empty stomach and now I’ve got into the routine I love it. But other people may feel differently, and maybe I will in the future

    2. Try an Betain hydrochloride with Pepsin supplement. Its quite common that some people do not make enough stomach acid and that causes sluggish digestion

      1. Very true which begs the question why? I supplemented with acid and it helped but didnt resolve the underlying problem. Point being dont pill it out and go back to “normal”. Get to the issue which in my case was a cloggy gall bladder which was greatly affected digestion processes.
        Changing my diet completely, regularly 1 day fasting, cleansing the bowels and I’m normal without supplementation. Also extremely grateful to enjoy natural foods and no longer crave the low vibration garbage I used to desire.

        Good luck on your journeys!

        1. I love fruits salad which is a mixture of milk and several fruits. But according to digestion laws it’s not ideal. So, can you suggest any alternative to fruits salad.

      2. Just watch out, some high stress people like me now finally on ppis after my stubborn butt stopped the low acid hype tried acv and kombucha, bad, bad, bad. Now my throat and esophagus are in rough shape. Alkaline eating is best when you are a high acid person….. Who has a long history of eating before bed, coffee, wine, and stress issues. Some people need a high alkaline diet.

  3. Great article Bastian- do you have a printer page where I can keep study to remember which food is best to eat for my digestion at the right time? That would be awesome. Thanks!

  4. Hii…
    I’m suffering from a stomach problem since 5 years..
    But now it’s getting worse… I have visited many doctors, general doctor to a specialist. ..but still the same…. also have done some tests, those were normal…
    Now.. after eating of meal .feel like it’s been there and burping with the same food taste.. now mostly feel pain in throat and feel the food is stuck in throat…. also my abdomen always full with gas and sometimes feel pain…also my head become heavy….. sometimes feel dizziness, weaknesses and fatigue.
    Can you please guide me what to do??? How to overcome from this problem …
    Thanks and regards

    1. Hi Tayyab, I can’t diagnose or give any medical advice but if you are really drawing blanks after consulting all the professionals and getting nowhere I would look into food combining and an elimination diet. I know they have helped me a lot. I know the fodmap diet has helped a lot of people with IBS also. I hope you get the help you need to get on top of this

      1. Tayyab, you need to seek for a functional doctor to do a test for SIBO and a comprehensive stool test. Your symptoms look similar to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It seems like the fatigue could be related to the fact that because your GI tract is so inflamed, you probably not absorbing nutrients well and developed some sort of vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
        Watch this video and also research some articles, but only for educational purposes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sxKa6wedBk
        Please look for a functional doctor who can order proper tests for you!

        1. Hi tayyab, I had same problem with fatigue, sleepiness and foggy mind. I started separating foods and eat more of a raw vegetables . 640 ml of warm water drink sipping it in am 45 min before meal. Then meal , no water or any other liquids, after 1-1/2 start drinking water in sips to aid the digestion. Half hour before meal glas of water and then you can eat. Also adding neck muscle stretching and trapezius muscle stretching. Its best to incorporate lots of raw plants and vegetables and no animal protein. That’s what worked for me

      2. Watching Dr. Eric Berg in YouTube has helped me tremendously.. well following his dietary recommendations, having water with lemon first thing in the morning and using coffee enemas a few times a month. I’ve had stomach and awful digestive issues since childhood and after being diagnosed with MS had to make a change. Hope this can help someone.

    2. sounds like your stomach is not producing enough hydrochloric acid try Betain Hydrochloride with pepsin supplement. cider vinegar with food is maybe a partial solution but the suplement is best

      1. I vastly improved my gastritis with food combining, while also taking the acid restricting drugs my doctor prescribed; yet I still have a small display of Barrett’s syndrome on my esophagus. However the web advises only short term use for these drugs (omeprazole), which opinion my doctor devalues. Where can I find good advice around this issue without just going to another MD who has been trained to depend on these drugs.

    3. Try 16 hours fasting … It can give you magical result .
      After dinner at 8 pm
      Dont eat anything till 12 noon (16 hours) let your body do the healing work
      While fasting you can only have coconut water or plain water
      Don’t eat anything..

    4. Hi tayyab

      Have you got any solution. I am suffering from the same problem.
      Let me know if you found anything


      1. Hi Shwetha,

        I have the same problem from last 6 months? my doctor ordered me SIBO testing? Did you find anything regarding that?

    5. Hi eat only whole wheat/whole meal flour no white flour bread or biscuits and pasta i had the same problem

    6. Tayab! Look into the book “plant paradox” literally sounds like you have a gut bacteria. Something throwing off your microbiome. The feeling of food stuck in your throat is indeed acid! I removed lectin filled foods, high acid like tomatoes and like magic the sensation went away!

    7. Abhay bhatnagar

      I have chronic constipation problem. Stool becomes very dry & doesn’t move in colon. I drink lot of water but that has not solved problem. I have been taking lactulose syrup for some time but i don’t want consume it everyday forever. Is there any food which can get rid of dryness of stool in colon? Once stool becomes moist i will have less problem. Is there any food which can make my stool move faster in colon? And at time should i take these food items, before going to sleep at night or early morning just after waking up?

    8. Might be silent reflux. Most important, look at family history, check WITH A DOCTOR. DON’T diagnose yourself online. I’m a high acid person who has throat injury and gerd. Assuming you need more acid can be an almost, well life altering mistake. See, when our lower esophageal sphincter relaxes too much it releases pepsin into the throat and esophagus. Pepsin plus back flowed gastric acid and dietary acid causes pepsin to activate and the throat and esophagus began to digest themselves. That’s throatburn honey. A year of my life has been taken from me. Get your ph tested. Throat burn is likely a sign of a weal lower esophageal sphincter. And if you poor diluted acv down your gullet, you will likely activate the pepsin (should not exist outside stomach) and you will burn the crap out of your throat and esophagus. BE CAREFUL. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID!

      1. I agree. But in this case SIBO is causing acid reflex because of bloating and reduced digestive power. Dyspepsia symptoms sometimes come secondary to SIBO. I thought silent reflex went on PPIs for a few months but my symptoms never relived.

  5. Hi Bastian,
    Great article. I am now finally learning about food digestion, as I set out to lose unwanted fat. 😉 I have a question; your article says not to eat anything with watermelon, does that mean not to eat it with any other melon, or can I eat all melons together, but do not mix with any other food?

    1. Hi Lisa, Glad you enjoyed the article. It does depend on the person, but I usually follow the thought to not eat it with other melon. But it’s just some guidance, I occasionally have it with recipes but try not to do it too often as it does disagree with me. This is more food for thought and there’s no one size fits all.

  6. Really interesting article. We’re going to test this way of eating. Thanks for sharing. Was wondering.. do you know how long it takes for fats to digest? Like olive oil, coconut oil, etc?

    1. Hi there, for fats I think it’s about the same as nuts so around 2 hours. These are rough estimates to give an idea rather than an exact amount as it depends on the person.

  7. As you suggested that juice veggies with fruits to make it less concentrated with sugar, but as a rule of thumb, the two should never never be combined as per Ayurveda and as a matter of fact, fruits should be taken alone or left alone ????…

    1. Some fruit can mix with veggies if you look up a food combining chart I think apple is one and also banana and greens I cant completely remember

    2. That recommendation is for juicing. Personally I prefer eating the fruit by itself to obtain the fiber that helps with the digestion of the sugar of the fruit.
      But if you do fuit juice…
      Instead of combining fruit and veggies, I would recomend fruit with green leaves.

  8. I suffer with bulimia and my potassium has been very low,I have started to drink potassium enriched smoothies,how long does it have to stay in my stomach so that I get the potassium I need

    1. Hi there, for this you would really have to speak to a medical professional – the times on here are rough and dont involve vitamin absorption. Wish you the best with your recovery

    2. Stop drinking smoothies! Eat (for that matter ), chew the fruits! Fruits were not made for smoothies. Thats why all human beings have teeth, salivary glands, hard palate and a tongue. Get the raw fruits and eat them! Ripe raw banana’s have a good supply of postassuim. Ripe raw plantains too.

  9. IT says you should eat watermelon alone but what about Mediterranean diets that eat watermelon and halloumi together as a long time tradition?

    1. Bastian Durward

      It’s more something to bear in mind, if certain combinations don’t affect you then it’s not the end of the world to have them now and again. But for some people they’ve had digestive issues and had no idea that the combination of foods could be the cause.

  10. Thanks for the info.

    For me (any maybe you?? – try it ) I eat fruit first thing in the morning (as much as I like) as a fruit salad, then wait about 90 minutes before eating anything else. Mixing anything else with that fruit causes bloating… maybe going by your info I can reduce the time that I usually wait. Eating fruit with any other meals causes bloating. Your info makes sense.

    1. Bastian Durward

      You’re welcome glad it was useful. The times above are just for rough estimates. I would always listen to your body and what works for it as we’re all different.

  11. Ayurveda, an ancient holistic science of healing, offers a logical approach for determining correct diet based upon the elements comprising an individual’s constitution: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This approach is quite different from the contemporary view of a balanced diet, based on eating from various food groups. Ayurveda believes that understanding the individual is the key to finding a truly balanced diet. It teaches that the gastric fire (agni) in the stomach and digestive tract is the main gate through which nutrients enter the tissues and then pass along to individual cells, to maintain the life functions. According to Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and a post-digestive effect (vipaka).
    When two or more foods having different taste, energy and post-digestive effect are combined, digestive fire can become overloaded, inhibiting the enzyme system and resulting in the production of toxins. Yet these same foods, if eaten separately, might well stimulate digestive fire, be digested more quickly.
    For example, milk and melons should not be eaten together. Both are cooling, but milk is laxative and melon diuretic. Milk requires more time for digestion.
    BTW, per Ayurveda as well, Melons more than most fruits should be eaten alone or left alone especially dairy, eggs, fried food, grains, starches.

  12. This is really useful article. Thank you so much. I have been on the celery juice bandwagon for a few months now. For rebuilding hydrochloric acid and gastric juices, for improving the digestion on the whole, nothing has worked except for 450 ml celery juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Miraculous!

  13. This Article really helped me. I was diagnosed with “Acid reflux”. Exactly because of late eating after work out, as workout after meal was not advised and also sleeping late like 1:30 or 2:00 am. I worked with this article, eating as simple as possible.
    – Almost stopped eating anything complicated at the beginning
    – gradually added and introduced single items to my diet, excluding complicated man-made food.
    – sometime on weekends I try man-made items. (very small portion).
    – Generally my food is small portion now and I give my stomach rest in between.
    – Count nuts I eat. control myself.
    – I go based on the article time for stomach rest to digest food.
    – Every day walk for 45 min to 1 hr.
    – Regular Yoga once a week
    – Watch comedies instead of serious news (really helps digestion and bowl movement)
    – Check digestion time after eat something before I go to next one and am committed to avoid eating during the next digestion time.
    – My digestion and bowl movement went from -40 to 100. I am great now knock the wood.
    – I can digest non-man-made items now in slam portions (do not kill myself with over eating)
    – I lost weight and got to shape I never ever dreamed I one day will 😀 (best point)
    – No more acid reflux
    – No more sleep problems
    – More energy
    – Fit in all the clothes I wanted to throw away
    – Great sleep (latest is 11:30 or 12 now)
    – Get up early automatically

    I feel great now 🙂 “I strongly advise any one who has any any sort of digestive problem to focus and filter what they eat and exclude man-made stuff. Eat whole food like fruits, veggies, meat, turkey, dairies, nuts,…and follow and be away of food at “digestive rest time”.
    Good luck everyone.

    1. Ok. Let’s say that I’m going to have a salad and some quinoa and beans for lunch.
      Do I have to wait 30 minutes after the Salad to continue with the beans and quinoa ?

      1. Depends what is in the salad… if it’s just raw greens, and tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, even acid fruit like strawberry or kiwi, (less sugar) then you should be okay. Bear in mind that cruciferous veg takes longer to pass… Beans might be heavy later because they contain a mix of protein and starch which takes longer to digest together, and you’re adding more carbs with the quinoa. You can also pair cooked food with lettuce which has helped me endlessly…

  14. I had my gallbladder out in 2008z in 2017 I began getting severe stomach attacks. I would wake up in the middle of the night, it felt as if my stomach was being twisted in knots. IT usually lasts about 7-10 minutes then it stops. I have an appointment with a GI. My ultrasound was clear. I lost a lot of weight due to me bit being able to eat certain things anymore. Any idea what this could be? Thanks!! I currently don’t take any vitamins to help digestion.

  15. Heather L Cobaugh

    Alllllllllll I want to do is poop, and I can’t. I can feel my food in my stomach. I have increased water and lost weight, but for heavens to betsy the only way to have a good poop is through exlax… wtf. salads, lettuce, even hot peppers aren’t helping…. My stomach no longer hurts, except I can’t poop. I do have IBS-C.

  16. Thank you all for the information. I’ve been having bloating problems for a while. Currently, I look four months pregnant. I ate some walnuts and pecans this evening and I’m feeling rough. Now that I have the digestion chart, I’m going to do better.

  17. Thank you for this article!! I’ve been having digestive issues as I stopped caring about my weight, and ate whatever I wanted… But it’s taken a toll and reading this and finally listening to what the schedules tell me, my stomach already feels better. Thank you again!!

  18. I had major appendicitis’s surgery in 2010. Bursted. Absesses and bowel blockage. Opened me up cleaned out my organs sewed me up, went on pick line for a month. 2yrs later big mesh inserted —hernias because of the surgery. Major scar tissue
    Fast forward 9 yrs. Ate a little too much asparagus and cheese. Developed a bowl blockage where the floating scar tissue grabs onto a part of the small bowel. In the Hospital. Inserted an EG tube to clear out the undigested food. Next day the obstruction opened up and I was released. If the obstruction didn’t open up they would have had to operate and remove the traumatized portion going thru my orig scar and the mesh. QUESTION FOR ANYONE. What foods to avoid. Was told no Raw vegs. Never corn. I have done a lot of research but would appreciate anyone’s feedback. Thanks

  19. hi good article, can you give an idea of how this would affect your meal plans for a day.
    for example i have oats in the morning with lots fo fruit. but this is slow digesting food and quick digesting food, respectively, eaten together. Based on your article if I understand correctly, I should have one or the other as they have different digestive times.

    maybe like you say, everyone is different, but I would be interested to hear what a slow/medium/fast digesting breakfast/lunch/dinner would be?

    many thanks

  20. I wanted to ask if dinner could be the best time to add some long digesting foods? Like while sleeping you don’t need to engage in any work that would require energy plus less stress on digestion. And also you can wake up with enough energy from the long digesting foods to be able to workout or Gym in the morning.

    1. Bastian Durward

      I think it all depends on the person, personally I avoid anything long digesting as I like to go to bed on an empty settled stomach. But there’s limited research and will to actually study it in great detail

  21. This article is very insightful. I’ve been diagnosed with moderate to severe delay in gastric emptying and was told to go on a low fiber/residue diet for the rest of my life. After a couple months on this diet, I gained 10 pounds, felt horrible and fatigued, and became pre-diabetic.

    I recently decided to go off of this diet due to lack of nutrients. I’ve started juicing and have switched to a vegetarian diet. I haven’t felt this good in over 20 years! I still have some bloating issues but not near as severe, and I’d rather have the gastric delay caused by fruits and vegetables instead of meat.

    Thanks for the article!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *