Although mankind has searched for a hangover cure for millennia — literally; miserable mornings-after were recorded by the ancient Assyrians and in the Middle Ages — it has so far proved elusive. Although no magic bullet for the effects of overindulgence, science has shown that the nutrients in certain foods can make you feel better ASAP. Below, we’ve picked our favorites both for preventing a hangover and for a hangover cure. Try to hold your head up long enough to read to the end. Oh, and next time, make sure you've read up on these 20 Tips for Choosing Healthy Alcohol Drinks.
FOR HANGOVER PREVENTION
Although pre-gaming your night out with a glass of milk may seem a little odd, when you’re feeling wide-eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow morning, you’ll be glad you did. Why milk? “Because of its protein and fat content, the beverage—and other foods rich in those nutrients—line the stomach and slow the absorption of alcohol, which prevents a hangover the following morning,” explains Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based registered dietitian.
Because cucumbers are pickled in a salt-filled liquid, munching on them can help keep nasty hangovers at bay. Think of them as edible Gatorade—they’re filled with the same hangover-fighting electrolyte (sodium) that makes the drink so effective.
Native Americans claimed that eating almonds could protect the body against intoxication and prevent hangovers—and modern-day experts concur. Thanks to their healthy fats and protein, nuts like almonds and walnuts (which are two of the 6 Best Nuts for Weight Loss) can slow the the absorption of alcohol and keep those nasty next-morning symptoms at bay, says Kaufman. Grab a handful before you hit the bars; the ones they set out at the bar usually have added oils. In a pinch? Go ahead and munch at the bar. The salt will double your hangover-prevention efforts.
The leafy greens are loaded with folic acid, sulfur and vitamin C—all nutrients that help ward off hangover symptoms. If it’s not too late, pregame with a spinach salad: Spinach is rich in fiber, which helps keep you fuller longer; you’ll be less apt to drink heavily.
Before placing an order for your first beer, ask your waiter for a big juicy burger. The combination of fat and protein from the meat will ensure the alcohol doesn’t hit you too hard and ward off tomorrow’s nasty hangover. To keep calories in check, ask for a side salad instead of fries and eat the burger without the top bun. Since you have plans to have a throw back a few drinks, it pays to save a few calories where you can. Better yet, make our Zero Belly Cookbook Classic Beef Burger at home — it only has 340 calories and includes a fat-burning special sauce!
Asian researchers say that the secret to waking up without a pounding head is to consume Asian pear juice before the partying begins. In their study, participants who knocked back just under 1 cup of Asian (or Korean) pear juice before their beers experienced lessened hangover symptoms the next day compared to a control group, a recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CISRO) found. The juice showed the most promise in easing the overall severity of hangovers and improving day-after concentration, a big perk for college students who put off writing papers to make it to a party.
FOR A HANGOVER CURE
You may be tempted to reach for the meds, but medicating with vitamins from whole foods—blueberries in particular—is a much better, all-natural option to perk up a compromised immune system. In fact, you can think of each sweet little blueberry as a pill that’ll make you feel a whole lot better. Oregon State University recently took a look at over 400 compounds for their ability to boost the immune system, and the study revealed blueberries as a standout due to a compound called pterostilbene. Goodbye Pepto Bismol, hello Pterostilbene! Bored with plain blueberries? Try any of our 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss for nourishing eats that are also delicious.
Red Ginseng Tea
A 2014 Korean study found that consuming a little less than half a cup of a red ginseng beverage (like tea), can fight alcohol-induced fatigue, stomach pain and thirst more effectively than equal amounts of H20. Red ginseng tea belongs to the botanical family panax, which translates from Greek to mean “all heal.” Sounds promising already, right? A study in the journal Food & Function found that participants who sipped on a red ginseng drink saw a significant reduction of plasma alcohol levels and hangover severity (from whiskey—ouch!), in comparison to the placebo group.
Soy Protein Shake
Cysteine may sound like something weirdos pop on viral YouTube videos, but it’s actually a magic hangover helper. The amino acid helps break down the toxins left behind by alcohol, and soy is the single food highest in it. Opt for a soy protein shake, a tofu smoothie or edamame. Try one of our 10 Protein Shake Recipes for Weight Loss!
Fight back against morning-after anxiety with a hot bowl of soothing oats. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that eating starchy carbohydrates like oatmeal after a long night of drinking can improve mood more effectively than consuming simple sugars like a bagel or Fruity Pebbles. Previous studies have also found that carbs help boost serotonin—the feel-good hormone—which may help you feel a bit better about last night’s blunders, too.
Think of guacamole as a designated driver for your digestive system. A study in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry analyzed the effects of feeding 22 different fruits to a group of rats with liver damage caused by galactosamine, a liver toxin. The fruit that proved most beneficial? You guessed it: the avocado. Cilantro, the savory herb that gives guac its distinctive flavor, contains a unique blend of oils that send a “simmer down!” message to an upset stomach. (Check out Wholly Guacamole's 100-calorie packs and the rest of our list of the 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss.)
Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant de-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick. Pair the lemon with other toxin-banishing, body de-puffing fruits, with these 14 Ideas for Detox Water That Banish Bloat!
Better red than dead. Tomatoes have been shown to boost liver function, which will help your body process the toxins floating around your system. They’re also rich in the electrolytes sodium and potassium, which will stave off dehydration side effects like headache and light-headedness.
Believe the hype. Coconut water is super-high in electrolytes: A 11.2-ounce container has 660 mg of potassium, compared to 422 mg in a banana! Compared to a commercial sports drink, coconut water was equally as effective in hydrating participants after an intense workout, a 2012 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found.
Any water-rich fruit will help hydrate you and, well, it's here in the name. Watermelon is also loaded with potassium, magnesium and L-citrulline, an amino acid which has been shown to boost blood circulation — which will help your body process toxins — detox the liver and put some rebound in fatigued muscles (which is why bodybuilders use it as a supplement). Bonus: Studies have shown it improves erection quality (helpful if you or your partner has found that morning sex tends to reduce those hangover-induced headaches).
You can put an ice pack on your throbbing head, but to get the same anti-inflammatory effect throughout the rest of your body, order the curry. Curcumin, a compound derived from the bright-orange spice turmeric, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory in the liver, research shows. A study in the journal Gut found supplementing with curcumin could significantly reduce bile duct blockage and curbed scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with chemical reactions involved in the inflammatory process.
A Sports Drink
While we don’t normally recommend these, in this case it will do you more good than harm. With fluid-balancing electrolytes and a touch of sodium, a Gatorade or Propel will help you start feeling like your old self and counteract the dehydration responsible for the spinning room and splitting headache.
Green tea is extremely rich in catechins, a type of antioxidant that increases the production of detoxification enzymes in the body. And they burn fat while they're at it: Catechins speed the liver’s capacity for turning fat into energy.To learn more about the wonders of tea, and get started on a 7-day plan that will melt up to 10 pounds, buy the 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse!
As your vital organs go into overdrive to flush out last night’s alcohol and balance its fluid levels, it needs all the immune support it can get, and vitamin C is just the nutrient for the job. Guava is the fruit with the highest concentration of C — 1 cup of the sweet fruit packs nearly one week’s worth. Other fruits higher in C than an orange (which is likely too acidic for your post-bender gut): Strawberries, papaya and pineapple.
Honey is made up of mostly fructose, and research has shown that the digestion of fructose competes with that of alcohol, forcing your body to rid itself of the remaining alcohol faster. Plus it helps your body cope with the hypoglycemia caused by booze. Stir honey into red ginseng tea, have a spoonful with a banana, or stir it into full-fat yogurt (a cure in itself; see below).
Though alcohol causes dehydration, it also makes it hard for the body to maintain blood sugar balance, which is why you’re experiencing seemingly contradictory symptoms. To banish the bad feelings, reach for some Greek yogurt topped with half of a banana. Both the creamy stuff and the fruit are easy on the stomach and rich sources of potassium, which can help banish bloat. The yogurt’s protein and carbs also help stabilize blood sugar and fight the associated mix of nausea and hunger.
The spice has a long history as a natural remedy for morning sickness, upset stomachs and motion sickness, so it just might be your savior. The best way to consume it is from a cup: Throw chunks of chopped ginger root into a mug, pour in boiling water and cover the cup with a plate to let the flavor steep for five minutes.
When you’re huddled over a plate of greasy diner food, begging the Hangover Gods for forgiveness, ask the waiter for a side of steamed asparagus. According to a study in the Journal of Food Science, the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus may alleviate hangover symptoms and protect liver cells against toxins. The veggie spears are also a natural diuretic, which will help flush the excess toxins from your system.
Eggs are a rich source of cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down alcohol’s leftover toxins. Two eggs will give you a full day’s allowance! Make an omelet with asparagus, wash it down with tomato juice, and you’ll be up and among the living dead in no time. Other rich sources of cysteine: Soy, beef, chicken and turkey.
Bananas are brimming with potassium, a mineral lost by frequent urination when you drink. They're also one of best natural sources of vitamin B6, which a study printed in the journal Annals of Nutrition showed can reduce hangover symptoms by as much as 50 percent! With odds like that, we'll take two.