How Long Does It Take To Absorb Nutrients From Food?

There are six stages of the digestive process.


When you think of the digestive process, you might picture the (pretty creepy) plastic human body in the Healthy Harold van with their stomach lighting up, or perhaps you see a diagram of a mishmash of worm-like intestines. Although we eat and get rid of waste every day, not everyone has a clear idea of what’s actually happening in the digestive system, if at all. In reality, the process of digesting food and absorbing its nutrients is much longer and more complex than we believe. Here’s what happens as soon as you put food in your mouth.

The digestive process:

  • Stage one: Begins in the mouth via chewing, saliva and enzymes
  • Stage two: Food travels to the stomach via the esophagus
  • Stage three: Enters the stomach, where acids begin to break down food
  • Stage four: Food enters the small intestine, where it is further broken down and many nutrients are absorbed
  • Stage five: Passes through to large intestine, where other nutrients are absorbed, with the remaining solids finally making their way to the colon
  • Stage six: Solid waste is stored in the rectum and egested.

How long does it take to digest food?

“Digestion starts to happen immediately,” according to dietitian Chloe McLeod. “Some carbohydrates will be absorbed in the mouth as the food is chewed and broken down by enzymes. Enzymes in the stomach further break the food down, before most of the absorption taking place in the small intestine.” It normally takes 6-8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine, and to enter the large intestine, where it becomes fully digested.

“From there onward, it takes 40 hours for the waste to actually be excreted. It is a bit of a process, so what you’re eating for breakfast today isn’t going to be fully digested until the end of the day. What you eat for dinner is being digested overnight while you’re asleep.” The exact time it takes for food to be digested depends on which nutrients the food contains and the quantity of the meal.

“Plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables will usually move through more quickly than high-protein or fatty foods,” McLeod said. “Fat actually slows down digestion, so if the meal is higher in fat (whether it’s healthy or unhealthy fats) it will take longer to digest. Really high-fiber meals take a bit longer to digest, as well, because the fiber is bulking everything out and slowing the transit time down.”

How long does it take to absorb nutrients from food?

As we digest food, our body transports and utilizes various vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats at different points along the digestive tract. The absorption process begins around 3-6 hours after eating. “Nutrients get absorbed as the food is broken down, with the majority of nutrients being absorbed in the small intestine, where they’re then transported into the blood stream,” McLeod explained. “In particular, sugars will be digested quickly and absorbed through the stomach wall and the wall of the small intestine, to then be utilized by the body.

“Various enzymes break down carbs, fat and protein. For example, bile acid breaks down fat, pancreatic juices help break down carbohydrates. Some nutrients are also absorbed via the large intestine.” Some of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed by what’s called ‘active transport’ across intestinal membranes.

“So they will attach to another compound and be transported across a passage. Whereas other nutrients will passively diffuse through the walls,” McLeod said. “For example, as fat is digested, it is broken down into small compounds in the small intestine before it is absorbed through the intestinal wall. The fatty acids then bind to a protein called albumin and are transported to the liver for energy or turned into longer chain fatty acids.

“Some fats form into triglycerides and are then moved into the blood stream. Any unused fat ends up being stored in adipose tissue.” For carbs, they are transported into the blood stream, and then to the muscles and stored as glycogen to be used for energy. “Excess consumption also ends up with conversion to fat and stored in the adipose tissue.”

Pretty cool, huh??? We are a complex but fascinating organism!

Adapted fromJuliette Steen

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Help your children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits! Be a good role model, make it fun, and involve the whole family in lifestyle changes.

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Diet, in addition to alcohol consumption, may play important role in liver problems


A new study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism finds that mice bred to consume high amounts of alcohol, but controlled by diet, did not necessarily develop the most severe liver injuries, suggesting that diet may pay an important role in liver injury development. Alcoholic liver disease is a global health burden and refers to a disease spectrum ranging from hepatomegaly and simple fatty liver (hepatic steatosis), to more severe pathologies such as alcoholic steatohepatitis and hepatic cirrhosis. In the United States about half of the population drinks alcohol and approximately 38 million people are estimated to engage in binge drinking behavior. This study sought to compare mice bred to preferentially consume high amounts of alcohol (crossed-High Alcohol Preferring, or cHAP, mice) to other mice using a chronic-binge ethanol ingestion model to induce alcoholic liver disease.

The mice were randomized and given different diets over a four-week period. Researchers collected tissue and serum. The researchers discovered that the cHAP mice on a diet of alcohol and water consumed significantly more alcohol than cHAP or other mice maintained on an alcohol diet. However, cHAP and other mice on the alcohol diet together with the artificial sugar maltodextrin had greater hepatosteatosis and overall degree of liver injury compared to mice that consumed a diet of alcohol and water together with maltodextrin.

These data suggest factors other than total amount of alcohol consumed may affect the degree of alcoholic liver disease development. Additionally, because cHAP mice exhibit increasing ethanol consumption over time, consume ethanol in parallel with normal dietary intake, and show higher levels of daily ethanol consumption than mice maintained on the controlled diet, this model may provide an additional rodent model to study the effects of ethanol on hepatic pathology that more closely mimics human patterns of ethanol consumption in heavy drinkers. In discussing these outcomes, the authors speculated saturated fat in the diet of the standard rodent chow used, and/or epigenetic changes during strain development, may have accounted for lack of liver injury. This position is corroborated by studies demonstrating a protective role for saturated fats in chronic ethanol-fed rodents in which diminished inflammation and decreased micro- and macrovesicular steatosis occurs to promote hepatic fatty oxidation. Saturated fats may also inhibit the development of alcoholic liver disease by maintaining growth of intestinal microbiota.

The findings suggest that although cHAP mice consume consistently high/sustained levels of ethanol, other factors such as disparities in specific dietary components, differences in the patterns of alcohol consumption, and timing of feeding relative to peak blood-alcohol content, alter the degree of liver injury in cHAP versus other mice. “A critical role of the gut microbiome and fecal metabolites is becoming increasingly appreciated,” wrote Irina Kirpich and Craig McClain in an editorial accompanying the study. Marked differences in the composition of the diets used in this study may help explain why mice consuming the highest amounts of alcohol did not develop the most severe liver injury. Diet and microbiome may be important variables in the different outcomes observed in various experimental alcoholic liver disease models.”

Adapted from: Oxford University Press USA. (2017, September 25). Diet, in addition to alcohol consumption, may play important role in liver problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2017 from

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Do something! Don’t call it exercise – call it fun. Dance, ride a bike, take the dog for a long walk or just climb the steps in your home or apartment.

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Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss

Research showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a 2-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. 


Avoiding continuous dieting may be the key to losing weight and keeping the kilos off, according to the latest research from University of Tasmania. In findings (published September 2017) in the International Journal for Obesity, School of Health Sciences researchers showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a two-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. The study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, investigated the body’s ‘famine reaction’ to continued dieting and its impact on weight loss in men with obesity. During the study, two groups of participants took part in a 16-week diet which cut calorie intake by one third.

One group maintained the diet continuously for 16 weeks while the other maintained the diet for two weeks, then broke from the diet for two weeks eating simply to keep their weight stable, and repeated this cycle for 30 weeks in total to ensure 16 weeks of dieting. Those in the intermittent diet group not only lost more weight, but also gained less weight after the trial finished. The intermittent diet group maintained an average weight loss of 8 kg (17 lb) more than the continuous diet group, six months after the end of the diet. Head of the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences Professor Nuala Byrne, who led the study with a team of collaborators from Queensland University of Technology and the University of Sydney, said dieting altered a series of biological processes in the body, which led to slower weight loss, and possibly weight gain.

“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ — making weight loss harder to achieve,” Professor Byrne said. “This ‘famine reaction’, a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.” Professor Byrne said while researchers in the past had shown that as dieting continued weight loss became more difficult, this latest MATADOR (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) study looked more closely at ways to lessen the famine response and improve weight loss success. However Professor Byrne said while this two-week intermittent diet proved to be a more successful means of weight loss compared with continuous dieting, other popular diets which included cycles of several days of fasting and feasting were no more effective than continuous dieting.

“There is a growing body of research which has shown that diets which use one to seven day periods of complete or partial fasting alternated with ad libitum food intake, are not more effective for weight loss than conventional continuous dieting,” she said. “It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach. “While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”

Adapted from: University of Tasmania. (2017, September 18). Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss: Research showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a 2-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2017 from

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Take time for tea! Tea contains polyphenols, it’s good for your bones and it provides a soothing cup of comfort in any season. It it also a good plant fertilizer!!

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There are plenty of reasons to exercise and plenty of reasons to limit sugar, but the truth is, neither would be enough to stem the obesity epidemic. Studies show that exercise, despite all its benefits, cannot compensate for poor eating habits when it comes to weight loss. For the most part, too much sugar and too little exercise sugarcoat the real issue at hand: We’re eating meat and dairy products in quantities that our grandparents never imagined. Obesity was all but unheard of a century ago in the United States. By 1970, about 11 percent of the population qualified as obese. Today, that number stands at 36 percent. So what happened?

Since 1970, our overall energy intake has risen by about 500 calories per day. Where are most of these extra calories coming from? The bulk is from meat, eggs, dairy products, and added fats, which account for an extra 287 calories every day. That adds up to about four extra pounds per year. Let’s rewind another 60 years. Compared to 1909, we now consume 60 more pounds of meat per person each year. Cheese consumption has soared from just four pounds per person in 1909 to more than 30 pounds today, making it a leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets.

Eating 100 more pounds of meat and cheese – along with saturated fat and cholesterol – every year has, not surprisingly, only made us gain weight and get sick. Decades of science confirm that our waistlines would benefit from simply moving the animal products off our plates. According to 15 major research studies, vegetarian diets consistently lead to weight loss, even without calorie restriction or exercise and long-term observational studies show that vegetarian—especially vegan—populations are the trimmest and healthiest on the planet.

It’s time to stop the sweet talk: Meat and dairy are the real drivers of the obesity epidemic, and setting them aside will help solve it.

Tip of the Day

Enjoy foods from many cultures. Combinations of herbs and spices often remind us of dishes from our own heritage or our favorite ethnic food. Add flavor to meals with herbs and spices, such as chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry, cilantro or turmeric.

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Vegan Diets Protect Against Prostate Cancer


A vegetarian diet lowers your risk for prostate cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (November, 2015). Researchers compared several dietary patterns and cancer incidence rates for 26,346 participants from the Adventist Health Study-2. Those who followed a vegan diet were less likely to be obese and experienced a 35 percent lower prostate cancer risk than those following a nonvegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet. Researchers suspect higher intakes of fiber, soy, and anti-inflammatory antioxidants from fruits and vegetables and lower intakes of saturated fat, animal protein, and serum insulin-like growth factor 1 from dairy products from a vegan diet contributed to lower cancer risk.

Tantamango-Bartley T, Knutsen SF, Knutsen R, et al. Are strict vegetarians protected against prostate cancer? Am J Clin Nutr. Published online November 11, 2015.

Tip of the Day

Prep in different ways! Did you know that it may take up to a dozen tries for a child to like a new food? Don’t give up. Try preparing the same food in different ways! They may like a vegetable cooked but not raw or vice versa.

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Strategies to Prevent Obesity

Obesity, it’s a complex problem, and there is no single or simple solution to the obesity epidemic. Policy makers, state and local organizations, business and community leaders, school, childcare and healthcare professionals, and individuals must work together to create an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle. There are several ways state and local organizations can create a supportive environment to promote healthy living behaviors that prevent obesity.

State and Local Programs

Resources are available to help disseminate consistent public health recommendations and evidence-based practices for state, local, territorial and tribal public health organizations, grantees, and practitioners. Knowing your body mass index (BMI), achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular physical activity are all actions you can take for yourself to combat obesity.

Community Efforts

To reverse the obesity epidemic, community efforts should focus on supporting healthy eating and active living in a variety of settings. Learn about different efforts that can be used in early childhood care , hospitals , schools , and food service venues .

Healthy Living

The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t short-term dietary changes; it’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.

  • Assessing Your Weight
    BMI and waist circumference are two screening tools to estimate weight status and potential disease risk.
  • Healthy Weight
    A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. Visit the Healthy Weight Website; learn about balancing calories, losing weight, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • ChooseMyPlate
    Healthy eating habits are a key factor for a healthy weight. Visit the ChooseMyPlate Website; look up nutritional information of foods, track your calorie intake, plan meals, and find healthy recipes.
  • Physical Activity Basics
    Physical activity is important for health and a healthy weight. Learn about different kinds of physical activity and the guidelines for the amount needed each day.
  • Tips for Parents
    Learn about the seriousness of childhood obesity and how to help your child establish healthy behaviors.

Reprinted from CDC

Tip of the Day

Eat smart at and away from home. When you’re the chef, you control what you’re eating. If you eat out, check and compare nutrition information to choose healthier options.

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Gut Flora and Diet

There are a number of ways the gut flora in your body play a role in optimal health. Recent research points to diet as a key player.

Type 2 Diabetes and Inflammation

Endotoxins in gut bacteria can cause inflammation as they pass through the gut wall, and often appear in high levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Inflammation and high endotoxin levels are also associated with high-fat, low-fiber diets, known contributors to type 2 diabetes risk. A plant-based diet increases fiber and helps to protect against type 2 diabetes.

Cancer Prevention

Gut bacteria creates butyrate, a compound that may inhibit cancer cell growth, when it breaks down fiber. High-fat diets release excess bile into the gut to help process extra fat, which certain bacteria may convert into cancer-causing substances. A high-fiber dietary pattern and the resulting production of butyrate and related substances, along with healthy gut bacteria, are associated with a reduced risk of precancerous colon growths. Other findings indicate that the interaction between low-fiber, high-fat diets and gut bacteria could increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

How to Maintain Healthful Gut Bacteria

While probiotics can help diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other specific conditions, what else can you do to maintain healthy gut flora? A whole-foods, plant-based diet ensures enough fiber for healthy gut bacteria cultivation. Special types of fiber called prebiotics can feed gut microbes linked to good health. Foods high in prebiotic fiber include leeks, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, and soybeans. Starchy foods such as potatoes can help produce butyrate to ensure a healthy colon. Gut bacteria—a powerful “forgotten organ”–can help limit disease risk and promote good health.

Reprinted from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Tip of the Day

Pump up that iron. Many beans, peas, and soy products are naturally low in fat and are packed with iron and protein. Use them in side dishes or as a main entree.

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