The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients found in food. It breaks it down into a liquid. As this liquid flows across the inner surface of the small intestine, nutrients within the food come into contact with the many blood vessels surrounding the small intestine. This blood leaves the small intestine, carrying nutrients, water electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, fats and medications to the entire body. It can take three to six hours for a meal to pass from one end of the small intestine to the other, and that is dependent on the food passing through; meals containing a lot of fiber move more quickly.