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Best Foods for Hangovers: What Does a Dietitian Suggest?

A night out with family, friends, or co-workers always seems like a good idea until the hangover hits the next morning. And as we get older, the few glasses of wine or craft cocktails at our favorite bar that we once easily tolerated in our 20s may now leave us feeling as though we've been hit by a truck.

By making a few plans ahead of time and learning which foods help you recover faster the next morning, you can be on your way to a speedier and likely less painful hangover.

Why do I have hangovers?

Hangovers happen in response to alcohol consumption. Some people can feel hungover from just one drink, while it may take a few servings of alcohol for others to feel the negative effects.

  • Dehydration. It is one of the leading causes of hangover symptoms such as thirst, fatigue, and headaches. Alcohol causes your body to produce more urine, in turn causing you to have to pee more often. Unless you are replenishing your body with water while you are consuming alcohol, you are likely going to get dehydrated.
  • Stomach irritation. Alcohol causes your stomach to produce more stomach acid that may irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract leading to nausea and vomiting. Drinking on an empty stomach can compound these symptoms, so it’s best to enjoy your drink of choice with some food.
  • Impact on blood sugar. Alcohol may cause a drop in blood sugar levels, which makes you feel weak, shaky, or just plain tired. This can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes. Having something to snack on with your drinks can also help prevent a crash.
  • Sleep disturbance. While alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, it disrupts your normal sleep pattern. You’ll get less restful sleep and may wake up earlier than you wanted to. This will leave you feeling groggy and unproductive during the day.

How to stop the hangover before it starts

By going into the night with a plan, you can reduce or even avoid some of the hangover symptoms. Plan to eat before or during your alcohol consumption, and remember to hydrate with non-alcoholic beverages.

Whether you want to prevent a hangover or are already in the middle of it, here are the best strategies proven to be effective:

1. Hydrate to feel great

If you are planning a night out, drink water throughout the day leading up to the event. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water, as this will ensure you are staying hydrated throughout the evening and will help you drink less alcohol.

Other healthy beverage choices are also recommended. Fruits and vegetables, for instance, are high in antioxidants and can be consumed as juice for hydration. One study showed that a mixed juice of Angelica keiskei (a flowering plant in the carrot family), green grape and pear juice sped up alcohol metabolism and reduced thirst and headache.

In addition, there is some evidence from cell studies that asparagus extract may speed up alcohol metabolism, reducing hangover duration, while ginger, with its antioxidant properties, may alleviate oxidative stress from alcohol consumption.

The next morning, you may want to replenish your electrolytes, so try drinking hangover-friendly beverages, such as a sports drink or mix water with electrolyte powder. Replacing the lost sodium and potassium will help balance out your mineral levels in the blood, leading to a quicker recovery.

In addition to getting plenty of fluid through beverages, it’s a good idea to eat foods that have a high water content. For example:

  • Watermelon, 92% water
  • Cucumber, 96% water
  • Tomato, 94% water
  • Lettuce, 96% water
  • Broth, 92% water
  • Skim milk, 91% water

2. Get in your macros to feel better fast

Eating foods that are high in protein can be helpful in expediting hangover recovery. A study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that individuals who consumed higher levels of zinc and nicotinic acid, both present in protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, beans, legumes, and nuts, experienced less severe hangover symptoms.

Consuming complex carbohydrates during a hangover will help stabilize a potentially low blood sugar level and give you energy. Whole grains like whole-wheat toast or oatmeal can feel good on an empty and possibly upset stomach. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of carbohydrates that may help you feel better fast.

Fat can also play a role in hangover recovery, but don’t reach for that fast food burger just yet. Greasy foods may make an already upset stomach worse. There is some limited evidence demonstrating that Try incorporating certain types of healthy fats such as krill oil right before consuming alcohol may reduce thirst and nausea – common hangover symptoms. However, more studies are needed to evaluate the effects of meals with healthy fats on hangover symptoms and alcohol metabolism.

3. Boost recovery with vitamins and minerals

B-group vitamins, as well as vitamin C and zinc, are some of the best choices when it comes to replenishing your energy levels and overall health.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for alcohol metabolism, but low levels can impede this process, a common occurrence in heavy drinkers. Similarly, vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supports alcohol detoxification and metabolism, but alcohol may also diminish absorption of this vitamin. Including meat, fish, dairy products, and foods fortified with this vitamin in your diet can help restore levels and promote hangover recovery.

In addition, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce some negative effects of alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus, tomatoes, strawberries, and potatoes can provide antioxidant properties that could be beneficial if you consume alcohol.

Zinc is yet another mineral involved in alcohol metabolism. One study showed that higher dietary zinc intake led to less severe hangovers. Therefore, incorporating zinc-rich foods — meat, fish, poultry, and eggs — could be a good idea.

Hangover prevention tips

The surest hangover prevention is to avoid alcohol. That may work for some, but not all. When you have a night out in the books, remember to plan ahead.

Hydrate throughout the day leading up to the event. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water.

Plan on having a meal before your first drink and continue snacking throughout the night, slowing down alcohol absorption.

Avoid dark colored beers and liquors which contain more congeners, potentially contributing to more severe hangover symptoms.

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