Does the Body Digest Fruits and Vegetables Faster Than Meat and Dairy?

The myth: The body digests fruits and vegetables faster than meat and dairy. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Businessman patting his stomach after eating --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

Two healthy young men sit at a table. One eats a pork-belly slider, the other, an arugula salad.

Question: Which man will digest and, um, deposit his meal first?

Answer: It's a tie.

"While everyone is different, in general, if you have healthy bowels, whether it's steak, bacon, salads, fruits, dairy, it all exits your system at roughly the same time, usually within 24 to 72 hours," says Maged Rizk, M.D., director of the Abdominal Pain Clinic at the Cleveland Clinic.

"The idea that certain foods stay in a normally functioning system for weeks is ridiculous," Rizk says. Food-processing times differ the greatest in the stomach, the first stage of digestion. But this is a more structural issue.

"Bulkier foods—, celery— take longer to break down than soft or highly processed foods," Rizk says. "But all the foods from a meal are broken down and out of the stomach within two to three hours, then usually leave the body within three days."

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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