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.
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 are 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.
For breakfast and dinner eat meals with quickly digested foods. You don’t want to overstress the body after it’s 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 its most productive. Something like a cashew cheesecake isn’t perfect food combining but lunch is the best time to eat it.
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.
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% of 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.
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.
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.
Grains and concentrated carbohydrates digestion
Brown rice, buckwheat, oats and cornmeal take 90 minutes to digest.
Pulses and beans all take about 2 hours 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% of vegetables in 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 digestive issues that leave you in severe pain speak to a medical
professional to investigate and do not diagnose yourself.
|Time to digest||Dairy||Fruit & Veg||Fish & Meat|
|15-20 minutes||Broths or juices.|
|30 minutes||Egg yolk||Other melons.|
Bananas, grapefruit, grapes and oranges.
Raw high-water salad vegetables i.e. lettuce, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and radishes.
|Non-oily fish i.e. cod, haddock, plaice, tinned tuna.|
|40 minutes||Apple, pear, cherries, plums, kiwi.|
Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables i.e. bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale.
|45 minutes||Whole egg|
|50 minutes||Root vegetables i.e. beetroot, carrot and parsnip.||Oily fish i.e. mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, whitebait.|
|60 minutes||Starchy vegetables i.e. butternut, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes and chestnuts.|
|90 minutes||Skimmed milk.|
Low-fat cheese products.
|Brown rice, buckwheat, oats and cornmeal.|
|2 hours||Cottage cheese.|
|Pulses and beans i.e. black beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans and soybeans.|
All high-fat seeds i.e. pumpkin, sesame, sunflower.
|Chicken and turkey.|
|3 hours||Nuts i.e. legume peanuts and all other nuts like almonds, brazils, cashews, pecans and walnuts.|
|4 hours||Beef and lamb.|
|5 hours||Hard cheeses.||Pork.|