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.

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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.

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7 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

  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 really can’t diagnose online 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

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