How Long it Takes You to Digest the Foods You Eat

Have you ever wondered how long it takes for your food to digest? It’s obvious that it’s quick for infants whose systems are clear of gunk, but for the average adult, the times can vary.

To understand food digestion times, it is important to understand the process first. After you eat, food goes through the entire tract, from your stomach to the small intestines, and finally the large intestines before leaving through your bowels.

Metabolism, medical conditions, or certain foods can speed things up, slow them down, or impede the process. For people with digestive problems, this can be painful or seemingly normal. The amount of food and nutrients you eat play a role in how long it takes for everything to move through your system.

Foods that digest quickly can give you a quick, glucose-filled energy burst but make you feel hungry sooner. Food that digests slowly may be better for your energy but can cause you to feel tired if your digestive system is working harder.

In general, it can take anywhere from one day up to three for a meal to completely digest and be eliminated. According to research, once food leaves the stomach, it can spend an average of 3-7 hours in the small intestines and another 10-30 in the large intestines.

Although each person’s body is unique, here’s an idea of the stomach digestion times for everyday foods.

  1. Chicken

    Count on chicken (and turkey) to take roughly two hours to break down in the stomach. Since these proteins tend to be low in fat, their total digestion times are lower than other animal proteins.

  2. Cheese

    On average, it takes 3 to 4 ½ hours to digest cheese. That includes being turned into liquid in the stomach. The same goes for whole dairy milk.

  3. Potatoes

    Starches like potatoes spend about an hour in the stomach before moving on to the intestines.

  4. Bread

    For the stomach to do its complete job with bread, it runs about 3 hours long. After that, it passes through the small and large intestines.

  5. Raw Fruits and Vegetables

    Fruits like apples, pears, and raw tomatoes take about 40 minutes to process in the stomach. Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers are also about 40 to 45 minutes. Once they move through the intestines, it’s on to the bowels. If your digestive tract is fairly unobstructed, it is possible that you will empty its contents out within an hour or two for these foods.

  6. Red Meat

    Red meat is difficult to digest and can sit in your body for a while depending on the amount. It can take 3 to 5 hours to digest in the stomach and another few hours to go through the intestines – anywhere from 3 hours to a couple days.

  7. Grains

    Your favorite grains like rice run about 90 minutes for stomach time, and their transit through the intestines can be anywhere from 1 hour to 10.

  8. Fish

    Typically, fish takes between 45 and 60 minutes to process in the stomach, and it spends additional hours in the intestines before passing out of the body.

  9. Shellfish

    Unlike regular cooked fish, shellfish takes longer to push through. It usually takes around 8 hours to digest.

Factors such as metabolism, fiber intake, food combinations, and health issues will affect your digestion times for any food or drink. It is advised to drink plenty of water, consume probiotics, and eat moderate portions for optimal digestion.

It can’t be emphasized enough that each body is different, and gender may also account for digestion times. Men tend to process food faster than women, but that also depends on diet, consumption amounts, and other factors. Remember to chew your food thoroughly and drink adequate amounts of liquid to improve nutrient absorption and digestion.


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