How Long Does It Take to Digest a Pizza?

How Long Does It Take to Digest a Pizza?
April 25 03:57 2021 by admin Print This Article

Food is made up of macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The time taken for digesting a meal depends on the size of the meal, the proportion of macronutrients in them, and the quality or type of macronutrients in them. When we say type, we refer to simple sugars vs refined sugars, saturated vs unsaturated fats etc. In addition to the time taken to digest, these macronutrients affect our overall health, creating diseases in the long run.

Given all these parameters, pizza is classified as junk food, in the same category as cheeseburgers and French fries.

Before we answer the question as to how long does it take to digest a pizza, let’s understand two things:

  1. Time taken to digest macronutrients
  2. The composition of a typical pizza

Time Taken to Digest Macronutrients

  • Carbohydrates: Simple sugars that are found in white rice, white sugar, and refined flour digest quickly and are converted into glucose, thereby creating a spike in our blood sugar when we consume them. Insulin is produced by the body to convert the sugars into energy, while the excess sugar not consumed is stored as fat in the body. This is why consuming heavy meals that are rich in simple sugars, frequently can increase the risk of obesity over time, if the person is not physically active or is living a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Proteins take more time to digest compared to carbs. The acid in the stomach as well as enzymes such as protease breaks down the proteins into amino acid chains which are transported into the small intestine. Here, they are further broken down into individual amino acids. These amino acids and micronutrients in the protein source are absorbed by the villi in the small intestine and then released into the blood. The blood transports this to the body cells for repair and growth.
  • Fats: Fats take the longest to digest. Much of the digestion of fat starts only after the food reaches the small intestine, so there is already a time gap here. In the small intestine, the bile produced by the liver breaks down the fat into fatty acids. From here, the fatty acids pass through the lymphatic system before they reach the bloodstream. The blood distributes the fatty acids to body cells for repair, growth, and energy conversion. The excess is stored in the body for later-day use. While saturated fats are difficult to digest, unsaturated fats are easy to digest.

The Composition of a Typical Pizza

A typical pizza contains refined sugars that make up the flour used for the crust, saturated fats in the form of cheese used for the topping, protein that comes from the cheese and processed meat used in the toppings, sodium from the salt used in the sauce that is found in cheese and sprinkled on the top, fiber from the vegetables and herbs used in the toppings, and micronutrients from all of the above.

One large slice of a typical pepperoni pizza contains:

  • 311 calories
  • 12 grams of protein
  • 75 grams of fiber
  • 701 mg of sodium
  • 14 mg of cholesterol
  • 5 grams of fat out of which 5 grams is saturated fat

Vegetarian pizzas that do not contain meat may be lower on the protein number, unless the pizza has been topped with nuts and seeds.

The Answer

Considering all the above information, please note, it takes 6 to 8 hours to digest a pizza given the higher fat content.

Health Risks from Pizzas

Consuming high-fat foods such as pizza cause both short-term and long-term effects such as:

  1. Blood sugar spikes: Most pizzas contain significant amount of crust that is made of refined flour. These are absorbed by the body as simple sugars, causing a blood sugar spike. Consuming many slices or a whole pizza keeps your insulin levels in the blood high for a long time. Repeated bouts of this can cause various health issues in the long run.
  2. Slowed down metabolism: When the food is higher on protein than fat, the body works hard to digest the protein. This keeps your metabolism high and prevents fat build-up or the risk of obesity. In a pizza, since the fat content is higher and fat is absorbed quickly, the body doesn’t work so hard. This leads to low energy, sluggish feel, difficulty in calorie burning, and hence weight gain over time.
  3. Craving and addiction: Dopamine is a hormone that regulates reward and motivation logic in the brain. Excessive saturated fat and sodium found in pizzas can distort dopamine function, thereby creating a craving that is satisfied by consuming more pizza. With the passage of time, the person becomes addicted to pizzas.
  4. Increased risk of disease: The processed meat used in pizzas increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Reducing the Health Risks from a Pizza

While occasionally consuming a pizza is okay, those who consume often are at risk. Such people can reduce the risk by playing with the ingredients of a pizza.

  1. While eating at a pizza joint, customize your pizza. Ask for less cheese and more toppings. If possible, a thinner crust even.
  2. While making pizza at home, reduce the cheese, keep the crust thin, and increase the vegetables used for topping. Non-vegetarians can use unprocessed meat such as chicken and lamb pieces as against processed meats like pepperoni or sausage. Also, you can experiment with the dough used for the crust. Use whole-wheat flour and/or the flour of millets along with refined flour. Make smaller pizzas, eat fewer slices, drink plenty of water, and stay physically active after eating.

 

Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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1 Comment

  1. Pushpa
    April 26, 05:41 #1 Pushpa

    Highly informative article. Yes, taking the right food is the key to healthy living.

    Reply to this comment

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