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The Best and Worst Foods to Cure a Hangover

Feeling blah after a wild night on the town? Don’t let a hangover ruin your day! Some foods can help cure a hangover, while others just make the problem worse.
The Best and Worst Foods to Cure a Hangover
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It’s one of those mornings: Last night was a crazy one and getting out of bed feels tougher than climbing out of a subterranean pit. College wisdom preaches reaching for cold pizza or a greasy bacon sandwich, but wait — certain foods are scientifically proven to help cure a hangover! Read on to learn which foods can alleviate post-party symptoms and which should be avoided like that plastic cup full of last night’s beer.

Photo by Benjamin Jacquot

Wrath of Grapes — The Need-to-Know

First thing's first, let’s talk science. Typical hangover symptoms — nausea, sensitivity to light, headache, achy muscles, diarrhea, and decreased motor skills — are all caused by changes in body chemistry, including hormones, chemical reactions within the body, and the toxic chemicals in alcohol [1]. The science of hangovers (and how to prevent them) is largely unstudied, which is why people have been inventing their own “cures” for centuries. Though no one meal or drink can cure a hangover, certain foods are better for refueling than others. After waking up with a pounding head, aim to restock the body with necessary fluids and nutrients like fructose, vitamins, animo acids, and minerals that can help break down toxins or lessen the body’s negative reaction to the chemicals in booze.

Good Morning, Sunshine — Your Action Plan

Drinks that Help:

  • Water. The elixir of life should be your number-one priority after waking up with a pounding head. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it pushes liquids out of the body. When nothing’s left in the tank, the body will draw water from any available source, including the brain — hello, headache. Drinking some H20 before heading to bed can help prevent some painful hangover symptoms, but grabbing the water bottle in the morning doesn’t hurt either.
  • Sports drinks and coconut water. Sugary sports drinks can do a workout more harm than good, but such is not the case with a killer hangover. Reach for a Gatorade or similar beverage to restore liquids and electrolytes stat. Even better, pop open a juice box of coconut water, which has five of the electrolytes found in human blood, while most sports drinks only have two.
  • Ginger or peppermint tea. For a soothing brew, look no further than granny’s favorite herbal tea. Studies show that ginger tea can reduce nausea and motion sickness [2]. Peppermint tea (a common morning sickness cure for pregnant ladies) can also ease stomach pain and decrease nausea [3].
  • Fruit juice. Pour a glass of apple or cranberry juice to kick start the recovery process. The fructose in sweet fruity drinks gives the body some instant energy, and may even help boost metabolism to get rid of those gnarly alcohol toxins. Juice also contains vitamins and plenty of water to get the body rehydrated.
  • Pickle juice. This hangover remedy is so weird that it must be true! The sour liquid contains vinegar, salt, and water, which can help rehydrate and replenish electrolyte and sodium levels. To make the most of it, sip 2 ounces (measure it out in a standard shotglass) before hitting the bars and another 2 oz in the morning.
Foods That Help:
  • Bananas, kiwi, and spinach. These brightly colored fruits and veggies are loaded with potassium, an important electrolyte that is often depleted due to alcohol’s diuretic effect. Not feeling a salad first thing in the morning? Add some yogurt and blend these bad boys into a hangover-fighting smoothie.
  • Eggs. This breakfast staple is a brunch all-star for a reason. Eggs are chock full of hardworking amino acids like cysteine and taurine. Taurine boosts liver function and can help prevent against liver disease [4]. Cysteine breaks down acetaldehyde, the yucky headache-causing chemical that’s left over when the liver breaks down ethanol.
  • Chicken Noodle Soup. Nothing says “wild night out” like a bowl of mom’s chicken and rice soup, right? It might not be the most conventional hangover food, but a cup o noodles can restock sodium and water levels in the body. Chicken and some vegetables contain cysteine, which give the liver a much-needed boost.
  • Miso Soup. Sushi is the last thing most people want to eat with a hangover, but there’s no reason to eschew all Japanese food. Like traditional chicken noodle, miso soup is a great morning remedy — the broth rehydrates and restocks sodium levels while the fermented miso can help aid digestion [5].
  • Crackers or Toast with Honey. Crackers can be loaded with preservatives, so pick a healthier option like Wasa or a 100 percent whole-wheat variety. Crackers and toast are both simple, bland carbs that raise blood sugar without upsetting the stomach. Add a drizzle of fructose-laden honey to help the body burn off alcohol quicker.
  • Oats. Take this superfood for a spin when you’re feeling less than stellar in the morning. A hot bowl of oatmeal has plenty of essential nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Oats can help neutralize acids in the body and raise blood sugar levels, giving you an instant energy boost.
  • Tomatoes. Leave the Bloody Mary, take the tomato juice. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body [6]. Tomatoes also contain fructose and vitamin C to give the liver a boost.
Foods and Drinks to Avoid:
  • Greasy food. Contrary to popular knowledge, heading to the local greasy spoon is not a great hangover cure. A large, fatty meal is better at preventing a hangover than curing one. Chowing down on a big burger before the liquor starts flowing can help insulate the stomach, preventing alcohol from being absorbed into the stomach lining and bloodstream [7]. A fried feast the morning after can actually irritate a sensitive stomach, so leave the basket of fries for later.
  • Hair of the dog. This wacky expression comes from a Norwegian folk saying that claims the best cure incorporates the substance that did the damage in the first place. Scandinavian wisdom aside, boozing in the morning is not the solution to a hangover. An alcoholic beverage can help take the edge off in the morning, but it will further dehydrate the body and lead to even worse hangover symptoms later in the day.
  • Coffee. Zero energy, pounding head… sounds like the right time for a cup of Joe. Nope! Like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic, so that latte will only dehydrate the body even more. Coffee is a vasoconstrictor — a substance that causes blood cells to swell — so a morning espresso will only take a headache to the next level. To feel better, stick to caffeine-free options like herbal tea, juice, or plain old H20.
  • Orange juice. A glass of this mellow drink may help you rise and shine during the week, but lay off the OJ after a night on the town. Sour citrus like orange and grapefruit can irritate an already sensitive stomach.

What’s your favorite hangover food? Tell us about it in the comments below or tweet the author at @SophBreene

Works Cited +

  1. The alcohol hangover. Wiese JG, Shilpak MG, Browner WS. Veterans Affairs Medicinal Center and the University of California, San Francisco, USA. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000 Jun 6;132(11):897-902.
  2. Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection. Lien HC, Sun WM, Chen YH, Kim H, Hasier W, Owyang C. Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology Taichung Veterans General Hospital, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan. American Journal of Physiology — Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. 2003 Mar; 284(3)G:481-9.
  3. Herbal remedies for dyspepsia: peppermint seems effective. Prescrire International. 2008 Jun; 17(95):121-3.
  4. Taurine and liver diseases: a focus on the heterogenous protective properties of taurine. Miyazaki T, Matsuzaki Y. Joint Research Center, Tokyo Medical University Ibaraki Medical Center, Ami Japan. Amino Acids, 2012 Aug 24.
  5. Traditional healthful fermented products of Japan. Murooka Y, Yamshita M. Department of Health Science, Hiroshima Institute of Technology, Hiroshima, Japan. Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology. 2008 Aug;35(8)791-8.
  6. Influence of lycopene and vitamin C from tomato juice on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation. Jacob K, Periago MJ, Bohm V, Berruezo GR. Department of Food Technology, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Murcia, Spain. British Journal of Nutrition. 2008 Jan;99(1):137-46.
  7. Observations on the relation between alcohol absorption and the rate of gastric emptying. S Holt. Can Med Assoc J. 1981 February 1;124(3):267-77.

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