Anecdotal evidence says that certain food combinations, such as fruits and meat or starches and citrus fruits, promote disease and cause digestive distress. This philosophy lacks scientific proof, but you may want to use a food digestion time chart to see how long it takes to digest fruits, veggies and other foods. Fruits, for example, are digested faster than meat due to their macronutrient composition, and make a healthy snack when your body needs a quick source of fuel.
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Fruit digestion time depends on several factors, including your gender, gut health, activity level and the type of fiber in the fruits you eat. The average bowel transit time in healthy individuals is 30 to 40 hours for most foods. High-fiber diets, exercise and proper hydration may help reduce transit time and keep you regular.
What Is Bowel Transit Time?
Bowel transit time, or colonic transit time, is the time it takes for food to travel through the gut. Medical professionals use this measure to diagnose constipation and other motility disorders.
According to a January 2012 research paper published in the _Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motilit_y, bowel transit time depends on age, gender, race and other variables. In general, it's about 30 to 40 hours in Western populations and up to 70 hours in mixed populations. Women tend to have a longer transit time than men. Asians have a total transit time of only 20 to 30 hours, which could be due to their higher intake of fiber and spicy foods.
These numbers vary, though. The Mayo Clinic states that total transit time is approximately 53 hours. After ingestion, food passes from the stomach to the small intestine in six to eight hours and then spends the rest of the time moving through the large intestine (colon), which is about five feet long.
Colonic transit time and digestive health are strongly connected, as reported in a June 2016 review featured in Nature Microbiology. Researchers have found that bowel transit time has a direct impact on gut microflora. Longer transit times promote gut bacterial growth, leading to protein degradation and increased levels of potentially harmful, protein-derived metabolites in the urine.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut Is Out of Whack
To put it simply, gut bacteria prefer to digest and break down carbs. A longer transit time increases the number of microbes in the gut. Some of these microorganisms break down protein rather than carbs, which may result in toxin buildup and ultimately affect your health.
A shorter transit time, on the other hand, allows the colonic mucosa to renew itself at a faster rate, leading to improved digestive function. These findings also indicate that gut bacteria diversity doesn't necessarily translate to a healthier gut.
Fruit Digestion at a Glance
With a few exceptions, most fruits are high in carbs and fiber and low in protein and fats. Each of these nutrients has a different digestion time. Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth, not in the stomach.
When you eat carbs, your body begins to digest them as soon as the food hits your mouth. Amylase, a salivary enzyme, is responsible for breaking down the sugars in carbs.
Protein digestion, on the other hand, takes places mostly in the stomach (mechanical digestion, or the process of breaking down food into smaller pieces, begins in the mouth, though). The digestion of lipids takes places mostly in the small intestine. These processes are facilitated by several enzymes released by your pancreas and other organs.
Read more: How Long Does a Fatty Meal Take to Digest?
Fruits also contain fiber and small amounts of protein and fats, not just carbs. Soluble fiber, for example, slows digestion. Insoluble fiber, by contrast, speeds up digestion and increases stool volume.
Citrus fruits, apples, pears, legumes and some vegetables are rich in insoluble fiber, so they take less time to digest than oats, bran, rice, fruits with edible peels and other foods containing soluble fiber. Note that whole grains and most vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fibers.
Your digestive health influences food transit time, too. Motility disorders, such as chronic constipation, diarrhea, gastroparesis and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), have a direct impact on the time it takes to digest food. Additionally, a meal that includes several food groups, such as fruits and grains, will have a different digestion time than a simple, single-food meal like steak or mashed potatoes.
Considering these facts, it's hard to tell how long it takes to digest a banana, an apple or any other fruit. A general food digestion time chart may not be accurate for everyone.
How to Improve Your Digestion
According to the review published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, it takes about 30 to 40 hours to digest most foods, including fruit. Again, these numbers vary from one individual to another. If you're struggling with bloating or constipation, there are a few things you can do to improve your digestion. Adding more fiber to your diet is a good start.
Fill up on whole grains, such as wheat, oats, barley, brown rice, millet and rye. Wheat fiber, for example, has been shown to increase stool frequency and decrease transit time. Wheat bran fiber is even more beneficial. Some grains, including oats, buckwheat and amaranth, are gluten-free and can be safely consumed by those with Celiac disease.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, too. Plus, they contain fewer calories and carbs than whole grains. Make sure your diet includes fiber-rich fruits like:
- Avocado: 80 calories and 3.4 grams of fiber per serving
- Raspberries: 64 calories and 8 grams of fiber per serving (one cup)
- Blackberries: 62 calories and 7.6 grams of fiber per serving (one cup)
- Guava: 37 calories and 3 grams of fiber per serving (one fruit)
- Banana: 112 calories and 3.3 grams of fiber per serving
- Goji berry: 98 calories and 3.6 grams of fiber per serving (dried)
- Pear: 95 calories and 5.1 grams of fiber per serving
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women consume about 25 grams of fiber per day. If you're a man, aim for 38 grams of fiber a day.
Consume plenty of water to keep your digestive system running smoothly and prevent constipation. Adequate hydration not only keeps you regular but it may also decrease transit time.
Try to limit stress and squeeze more "me" time into your routine. Stress may trigger or exacerbate digestive disorders like GERD, peptic ulcer and irritable bowel syndrome, as the Canadian Society of Gastrointestinal Research points out. Furthermore, it can both delay gastric emptying and speed up the movement of food through the intestines.
In the first scenario, you may experience bloating, constipation and digestive discomfort. If food moves too quickly through the digestive system, you may experience diarrhea and poor nutrient absorption. Either way, stress has a major impact on gut health.
A food digestion time chart won't be of too much help. Instead, consider changing your diet and make simple lifestyle changes to enjoy better digestion. Stay active throughout the day and commit to regular exercise. Physical activity, whether it's running, walking or weight training, has been found to reduce transit time and protect against colon cancer.
- Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: "How to Interpret a Functional or Motility Test - Colon Transit Study"
- Mayo Clinic: "Digestion: How Long Does It Take?"
- UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh: "Difference Between Small and Large Intestine"
- Nature Microbiology: "Colonic Transit Time Is Related to Bacterial Metabolism and Mucosal Turnover in the Gut"
- UC San Diego Health: "The Digestive Process: Digestion Begins in the Mouth"
- BCcampus Open Education: "Digestive System Processes"
- Medical LibreTexts: "Protein Digestion, Absorption and Metabolism"
- MedlinePlus: "Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber"
- University of California San Francisco: "Increasing Fiber Intake"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Motility Disorders"
- Vivo Pathophysiology: "Gastrointestinal Transit: How Long Does It Take?"
- Europe PMC: "Effects of Cereal Fiber on Bowel Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Trials"
- USDA: "Raw Avocado"
- USDA: "Raspberries"
- USDA: "Blackberries"
- USDA: "Guava"
- USDA: "Banana"
- USDA: "Goji Berry"
- USDA: "Pear"
- American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Acute and Chronic Effects of Hydration Status on Health"
- Canadian Society of Gastrointestinal Research: "Stress and Your Gut"
- Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: "The Physical Activity Level in Female Affects Colon Transit Time"