So, you had book club last night and one drink turned into four, with nothing but a bowl of chips to soak up all that pinot. Oops. Now you’re paying the price and you’re desperate for some relief. First, the bad news: There is no cure for a hangover (sorry). But certain ingredients just might help alleviate some of those pesky symptoms. Here, 14 of the best hangover foods, according to the experts.
Wait, what actually causes a hangover?
Excessive drinking prompts a few (bad) things to happen to your body. First, when your body metabolizes the alcohol, it causes a by-product of toxins to build up. Too much booze can also trigger an inflammatory response, as well as irritate the stomach lining and lead to dehydration. Cue symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and excessive thirst. Fortunately, in most cases, hangovers will go away on their own in about 24 hours. But you may feel better sooner by consuming the right foods and drink. Enter these miracle workers below. (Warning: “Hair of the dog” will not cure a hangover—in fact, it’ll only make you feel worse.)
Alcohol puts a strain on the liver. But happily, our favorite toast topper contains certain compounds that can help protect against liver damage, per a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Avocados are also high in potassium, a mineral that’s lost during a drinking binge. Guess we know what we’ll be having for breakfast Saturday morning.
After a bout of heavy drinking, you may be feeling a little (OK, a lot) queasy. Reach for ginger, says Dr. Josh Axe, author of the upcoming Collagen Diet. “Ginger is an effective natural remedy for nausea and can help settle stomach issues caused by a hangover,” he explains. And thanks to certain medicinal compounds found in ginger, it may also help treat and prevent other digestive issues like vomiting.
3. Tomato Juice
Tomatoes could help ease hangover symptoms thanks to certain compounds (namely naringenin and lycopene) that have been shown to protect against liver damage. And one test-tube study (i.e., not done on humans) from Cornell University found that tomato juice can speed up the rate at which enzymes process alcohol. (Just remember to opt for a virgin Bloody Mary at brunch, though.)
“Both oxidative stress and inflammatory responses contribute to the physiology that occurs when we experience hangovers from drinking too much alcohol,” nutritionist Stella Metsovas tells us. “Selenium is a powerful mineral that is essential for a healthy metabolism while protecting your body from oxidative stress.” And eggs are especially high in this important nutrient. Her top tip? Whip up two sunny-side-up eggs with a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil (which may also combat oxidative stress) for breakfast to help alleviate symptoms.
According to a 2009 study from Korea, asparagus contains compounds that may ease hangover symptoms. Researchers found that extracts from asparagus more than doubled the effectiveness of certain enzymes that help break down alcohol while protecting the liver cells from damage. Sure, the study was conducted in test tubes (and not on humans) but adding a couple of green spears to your salad can’t hurt, right?
Remember what Metsovas said about excessive drinking causing inflammation? “One of the most important components of anti-inflammation comes from minerals found in whole, unprocessed foods,” she adds. These nuts not only pack an anti-inflammatory punch; they’re also high in selenium. (And they’re pretty damn tasty, too.)
News flash: Alcohol causes dehydration. “Cucumbers are full of water and electrolytes to help you rehydrate better than water alone after a night of drinking,” registered dietician Bri Bell tells us. “The light, fresh flavor is also easy to tolerate if you're feeling a bit nauseous.”
Stay hydrated, guys. “Alcohol is a diuretic, so it can dehydrate you and make you urinate more, says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN. “Opt for low calorie, low sugar drinks like plain water, sparkling water, cold water or hot water.” Or you know, whatever you can drink and keep down. Dr. Axe recommends coconut water, which he says is loaded with electrolytes that you may be lacking after a night of heavy drinking. What about a cup of joe? While caffeine is a diuretic, it can help take the edge off of a hangover headache. Just make sure that coffee isn’t your only source of fluids, Miller cautions.
“Excessive alcohol intake can deplete the body of B-complex vitamins and increase compounds that cause inflammation,” explains Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, and blogger at Dish on Fish. “Eating salmon may help counter these effects since this fatty fish is rich in vitamins B6 and B12, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that help to lower inflammation.” In fact, one 3-oz. serving of cooked salmon provides more than half of the daily value for vitamin B12. Salmon tacos for lunch, anyone? (Topped with hangover-busting avocado, of course.)
Dr. Axe makes a good case for adding a drizzle of honey to your tea. “Honey is high in fructose, a type of sugar made up of glucose and sucrose molecules bonded together,” he says. “Interestingly enough, some research suggests that fructose could help the body eliminate alcohol more efficiently, which could potentially provide faster relief from hangover symptoms. In fact, one study out of Nigeria found that consuming honey increased the elimination of alcohol by up to 32 percent.” Not too shabby.
“Bananas are a great source of potassium and can help replete your body’s electrolytes to get you back to feeling your best in no time,” Dr. Axe tells us. “They’re also high in fiber and slow-digesting carbohydrates to stabilize blood sugar levels, which may help alleviate hangover symptoms caused by low blood sugar such as headaches and fatigue.”
12. Anything bland
“If you’re nauseous, consider eating foods with minimal odor and flavors that are not too intense,” suggests Miller. Think: saltine crackers, soup, toast, vanilla pudding, cooked vegetables or potatoes.
Biting into a crunchy pickle isn’t just delicious, it could also help you beat your hangover. That’s because pickles are high in sodium, an electrolyte that’s depleted after a night of heavy drinking. (Psst..here’s a recipe for easy homemade pickles.)
Some people crave carbs when they’re hungover. If this is you, oatmeal is a great choice. “It gets digested slowly and therefore delivers a slow and steady stream of sugar and energy to the body to help with hangover symptoms,” Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Real Nutrition tells us. Get your energy back with a nice warm bowl of oatmeal —and top it with nuts to decrease inflammation, too.