The digestive system is how the body breaks down and absorbs nutrients from food. So how long does it take to digest different foods? The length of time varies depending on how difficult it is for your body to process that food you just ate. Knowing how long it takes to digest certain foods is important because that’s how you can determine what to eat according to your own personal preferences and needs.
What is Digestion and Why Does it Affect How You Feel?
If you feel sluggish and groggy, it’s probably because the foods you ate didn’t get processed and broken down into energy. This is how your body feels when your food isn’t fully digested. Your stomach acids and enzymes break down proteins into amino acids, starches into simple sugars, and fats into fatty acids. If you don’t digest these foods properly, your body can’t absorb the nutrients. If you want to digest your food quickly, you need to eat foods that are easily digested by the human body, and everyone is different so if something doesn’t sit well with you, that’s ok, you live and learn, but for most people, this means not consuming things like beans, broccoli leaves, red meat or spicy foods right before bedtime because you won’t sleep well.
How Does the Digestive System Work?
Here’s just a short overview if you don’t remember your biology from 5th Grade (I had to look it up). If you need more details please consult a licensed physician.
- Mouth – When you chew and swallow, your mouth breaks down the food while secreting saliva. The more you chew your food the less work the other parts of your digestive system have to do.
- Esophagus – The esophagus is the tube that leads from your mouth to your stomach. It’s lined with muscles, which move your food down to the stomach automatically no working out is required.
- Stomach – Food moves into your stomach through a muscular valve at the bottom, where it begins to mix with gastric juices which break down food from a solid to a liquid.
- Small Intestine – The liver and pancreas send digestive enzymes to the small intestine where proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are broken down and nutrients are extracted and delivered to the rest of your body.
- Large Intestine – The large intestine is where food with nutrients that can’t be extracted are turned back into a solid for the body to pass.
How Does Fiber Affect Digestion?
Dietary fiber (also known as bulk or roughage) refers to the parts of plants that your digestive system will not break down into component nutrients. A high fiber diet usually means you are eating lots of vegetables and fruits.
The Two Types of Fiber
Soluble Fiber – Soluble fibers dissolve in water and ferment when they reach the colon. This helps add bulk to stools and decreases how long it takes for your food to pass through your intestines. The best sources of soluble fiber are beans, oats, peas, apples, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble Fiber – Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and increases how quickly waste moves through your intestines and out of the body (helps to prevent constipation). The best sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and cauliflower.
If you think you may have digestive problems check to see how much fiber you’ve been eating lately. Chances are it may not be enough, most Americans eat less than the recommended daily allowance. Make sure you keep track of how much fiber you’re eating and check it against the recommended daily allowance for you (it depends on age and gender).
How Long Does it Take to Digest Beef, Chicken, and other meats?
Beef takes the longest to digest. It takes 24-72 hours for your stomach to break it down and about 18 hours for your intestines to process it. Chicken is easier on your digestive system but still takes over 10 hours to fully digest in the small intestine. Pork will take about 8-12 hours depending on how much you ate and how it was cooked.
How Long Does it Take to Digest Vegetables and Fruits?
It will take about 4-6 hours for your body to digest vegetables. The biggest factor is how they were cooked. Raw vegetables take the longest while steamed vegetables are the quickest. Fruits will usually take 1-4 hours to fully digest.
Does it Really Take 7 Years to Digest Gum?
Gum is digested by bacteria that live in your intestines. Although it does take longer than most foods, typically a few days, the rumor that it takes 7 years is a myth.
How Can You Influence the Digestion Process?
You can make it easier for your body to digest by:
– Eat Smaller Portions: eating smaller portions of food at a single sitting (this creates a smaller load for your digestive system to process).
– Eat Slower: how fast you eat can also affect how long something takes to digest. Taking smaller bites and chewing your food more will give your body more time to register when it’s full so you don’t overeat and your food will be more broken down when it comes time for your stomach acids to do their part (so less work for them).
– Drink Water After Eating: drink plenty of water after a meal to ensure that your digestive system doesn’t have to work double-time (the food won’t digest as well if your intestines are busy trying to rehydrate you).
– Get the Right Nutrients: eat a fiber-rich diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, is the best way to ensure that your digestive system has everything it needs to do its job properly.
In order to ensure your digestive system has what it needs to work efficiently, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and don’t forget to drink lots of water! Make sure that your diet has a balance of different food types and that you aren’t eating too much of any one type of food in one sitting.