Digestion is a fundamental process for the proper assimilation of all macro and micronutrients. During the digestive phase, nutrients transform and reduce into simpler and more absorbable, and assimilable nutrients by the body. Moreover, there are certain foods that are easy to digest.
The duration of digestion depends a lot on the individual and on what we consume in the meal. In general, a light meal can remain in the stomach for 2 to 4 hours and then arrive in the small intestine, where it remains for a few hours, and, finally, it will arrive in the large intestine, the last part of the digestive tract.
Knowing the digestion times can help you better understand which foods can take the longest time and which ones, on the other hand, are more easily digestible.
The presence of fats prolongs digestion. Therefore, a food rich in fat will take longer to digest than a food with a low amount of fat.
Likewise, the presence of fiber can also slow down the digestive process. However, it does not mean that food rich in fiber is also not very digestible. On the contrary, fiber consumption is essential to keep the entire organism healthy, and a healthy individual will have no problems in their digestion.
What can cause poor digestion?
However, some causes can lead to poor digestion and often link to an incorrect diet. First, to promote proper digestion, one must chew the food slowly and sufficiently because the digestive process begins with chewing, thanks to the enzymes present in saliva.
In addition, other factors affect the digestibility of food, including the cooking and texture of the food itself.
Poor digestion can lead to intestinal disorders such as bloating in the belly and excessive stomach acid. Suppose digestive difficulties last for weeks and associate with stomach acid, heaviness, or bloating problems. In that case, it is practical to consult a doctor or a nutritionist to evaluate any changes to your diet and remedy the problem.
List of foods that are easy to digest.
Below we will see which are the easiest foods to digest, which you can consume both in case of digestive problems, and in case we simply want a light and digestible meal in a short time.
1. Cooked vegetables.
Vegetables are one of the most crucial foods in healthy nutrition. The guidelines recommend the consumption of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables.
However, the digestibility of vegetables can also be difficult and varies greatly depending on the type of vegetable and how you are cooking it.
Cooked vegetables are more digestible than raw ones because the fibers break down with cooking, facilitating digestion.
Among the vegetables that are preferable to eat cooked, we find a pumpkin, courgettes, aubergines, and cabbage, while others, such as carrots, peppers, or spinach, can be eaten both cooked and raw.
In case of poor digestion, however, it is preferable always to consume cooked vegetables, possibly steamed or in a pan for some minutes, to preserve the food’s nutritional properties as much as possible and, at the same time, allow for easy digestion.
Rice is a very beneficial food and easy to digest. Being composed mostly of carbohydrates, rice is a light and tasty food, which lends itself well to light and digestible dinner or lunch.
Although brown rice is the best choice in nutritional terms, speaking of digestion times, white rice is the one that requires the minimum time to digest due to the lack of fiber.
For it to be more easily digested, make sure to eat rice still hot because, when it cools, the rice starch becomes “resistant.”
Resistant starch is a category of starch that offers several health benefits as it acts as prebiotic fiber and promotes the health of intestinal bacterial flora.
Therefore, it is comprehensible how important it is, in a varied and balanced diet, to foresee both the consumption of different types of food and use different preparation methods.
3. Hulled millet.
Millet is a cereal, rich in beneficial properties, light, and easy to digest. It is also available in whole and hulled forms, which are less fiber-rich. Due to this characteristic, the hulled millet is more easily digestible than the whole version.
In addition, millet is very beneficial for the intestine as it reduces swelling and prevents acidity and “stomach heaviness.”
We can eat it cold in salads or cooked and combine it with steamed vegetables or as a side dish for a single dish. In addition, hulled millet does not contain gluten, and those who have celiac disease can also consume it.
Although not all fruits are easily digestible in the same way, this category of food and vegetables must always be present in our diet. For this, it can be useful to understand which fruit is the most digestible.
In general, very digestible fruits are, for example, pineapple, kiwi, apple, and papaya. These last two exotic fruits, in particular, contain enzymes that aid in the digestion of proteins, and we can also eat them after a meal rich in these macronutrients.
In general, one must remember that cooked fruit is more digestible than raw one, even if it has a lower vitamin content. Again, variety is the best choice.
5. Lean fish.
Lean fish is definitely a light and easy-to-digest food. Unlike fatty fish such as salmon, lean fish has a low-fat content which is the leading cause of slow digestion.
We find cod, hake, sea bass, sole, plaice, and sea bream among the lean fish. The most suitable cooking methods for this type of fish are short ones and possibly with steam or in water.
6. White meat.
Similar to lean fish, white meat is also less high in fat than other types of meat. In addition, white meat has a thinner muscle structure and a lower presence of connective tissue than red meat and this, combined with the lower presence of fats, facilitates digestion.
This category includes chicken, turkey, or rabbit meat. As for cooking, even in this case, simple ones are preferable, such as grilling or steaming. To facilitate the digestion of the meal, it is also important to pay attention to the condiments, which will have to be limited and not very elaborate.
In addition, they also contain high-quality proteins. However, make sure to remove the skin, as it is very oily and, therefore, difficult to digest. Of course, if we have digestive problems, we avoid frying them. Cook your white meats very well to minimize the risk of food infections.
7. Boiled potatoes.
Among the best-known foods that are easy to digest, we certainly find potatoes, especially boiled ones. In fact, boiling transforms the starch of the potatoes, making them more digestible.
Furthermore, due to the presence of fiber in the peel, it could be useful to consume peeled potatoes in case of poor digestion. Besides being digestible, potatoes are beneficial for the intestine as they have a soothing action and prevent acidity. Likewise, American potatoes are also light and easy-to-digest food.
Most of the carbohydrates in potatoes are resistant starch, accounting for between 15 and 20% of their weight. Once cooked, however, they become much more digestible. Exactly what happens with rice. However, if they are cooled, the resistant starch increases, therefore not digestible.
Contrary to what one might think, eggs are an easily digestible food, especially if cooked, soft-boiled, or poached, and in any case, for times not exceeding eight minutes.
Instead, avoid omelets and scrambled eggs because they have longer digestion times.
9. Ripe banana.
Unripe bananas comprise a high content of resistant starch, which our bodies cannot digest. As it matures, this type of starch becomes sugar, which the stomach can digest easily. Also, as the banana ripens, a type of fiber called pectin breaks down, making the banana softer and more digestible.
Bananas are a splendid source of carbohydrates that are easily digestible by most people. In ripe bananas, these carbohydrates are even more accessible.
Bananas are also a splendid choice because they cater to potassium that the body can lose during a bout of diarrhea.
After undergoing a surgical procedure, gelatin is the first food a patient can eat, precisely because it is one of the highly digestible foods. It’s very gentle on our digestive system and can also help in treating dehydration associated with diarrhea and vomiting. Gelatin is simple food, has no fat or oil, and goes down really smoothly.
When considering easy-to-digest food, salmon is one of the best options. It is highly rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Baked salmon is typically the finest way to serve it to keep digestion as simple as possible.
Among the easily digestible foods par excellence, we find chicken. Chicken is a magnificent source of lean protein and can help the body in repairing itself.
Chicken does not contain any fiber, which makes it a great choice for people having digestive problems such as IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). This food is likely to be easily digestible.
Skinless chicken is the best option. It is better to bake or grill the chicken instead of frying it. When you fry the chicken, the oil can cause an upset stomach, worsening the existing digestive problem.
13. Sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are a great soluble fiber source. The soluble fibers are far easier to digest for the digestive system than insoluble fibers.
Additionally, soluble fiber increases good bacteria in the gut, which adds to a healthy digestive system. Again, sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, an electrolyte that our body often loses during stomach upset.
14. Apple sauce.
Applesauce is easy to digest. Apple compote is an easy-to-digest source of fruit. Fruit is part of a healthy diet. But due to the fiber content, it can initiate digestive problems.
Apple compote is an exceptional choice for a more effortlessly digestible source of fruit. Although it does contain some fiber, the quantity is very low than a whole apple which can be harder for the stomach to digest.
Additionally, apple compote contains pectin, a soluble fiber that helps in treating diarrhea. Sugar and carbohydrates also provide an energy boost.
Apples and apple juice contain good sugar or fermentable carbohydrates that nourish gut bacteria, but these can heighten the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). If someone suffers from IBS, they can consume grapes or blueberries in place of apples.
Toast is one of the most easy-to-digest foods that can be the principal of a bland diet. One of the leading reasons behind this is that it tends to be easier for the stomach and intestines to digest.
Toast can be helpful in decreasing nausea and reducing heartburn. But not all toasts are created equal.
Whole meal bread has a superior amount of fiber and can be problematic to digest for some people. Hence, to avoid digestive problems, a person can stick to white bread and skip the butter whenever they feel unwell.
If someone has wheat or gluten-containing food intolerance, they can go for gluten or a wheat-free bread option.
Our body digests honey in just under 30 minutes. It is a highly energetic food composed of simple sugars (fructose-glucose and therefore easily digestible), which contains: enzymes, vitamins, trace minerals, antibiotic-like substances, and substances that can favor growth processes. It is often the most used food by athletes, excellent as a sugar substitute.
17. Tea and wine.
The tea takes a maximum of 1 hour to digest. Green tea, in particular, has many beneficial properties and detoxifies the body from accumulated toxins.
The alcohol in the wine stimulates salivary secretion, which, thanks to an enzyme called ptyalin, has the important task of first digesting the ingested food and splitting complex components, such as starch. Moderate consumption of wine per meal is therefore welcome.
As a signal, light meals involve gastric digestion periods of 2 or 3 hours. Normal meals stay in the stomach for 3 to 4 hours, while mostly elaborate menus take up to 5 or 6 hours to move to the small intestine.
While the usual transit period of undigested food remains in the human intestine is 57 hours in women and 50 hours in men.
It is what we can reasonably expect from a healthy person who eats at home and relaxes on the sofa! In fact, numerous factors can disturb the digestive process, above all:
- Age (with increasing age, the times get longer, and the assimilation processes become less efficient).
- Food sensitivities (foods that some people suffer from individually).
- Anxiety and stress (hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are anti-digestants).
- Physical activity (playing sports slows digestion).
At what times of the day is it recommended to take easily digestible foods?
For you to enjoy good digestion and forget the heaviness of the stomach, we have left you with preparations for before, during, and after meals:
- Before meals. Papaya and pineapple smoothie with a hint of ginger. Perfect for balancing the pH of the intestine, stimulating the production of gastric juices, and providing a large number of enzymes that will facilitate the digestion of fats and proteins.
- With meals. Water with lemon and herbs. Perfect for drinking while eating. With ice, it is doubly refreshing and digestive.
- After meals, if you notice that you have overstepped the limit a bit during the meal, an infusion of licorice, mint, and anise is ideal. The best thing to enjoy the flavor and all the properties are to take it lukewarm.