Holiday season means family, friends, parties, and drinks. All of which can lead to uncomfortable mornings spent hiding in dark rooms eating greasy food and wondering what exactly happened the night before.
Good news! Enjoying a few drinks doesn’t mean you’re destined to spend the next day sloth-like on the couch or hunched over a toilet. In fact, researchers are finding that your alcoholic choices and what you eat before, during, and after you drink could drastically reduce your risk of a morning hangover.
In the event that you do overindulge and find yourself feeling queasy the morning after, reach for natural hangover food and drinks instead of bottled cures in the medicine cabinet and you’ll be feeling refreshed in no time.
Eating asparagus before you go out, or while you’re drinking, can help prevent or ease a hangover, according to 2009 research from Korea. Scientists found that extracts taken from the leaves and shoots of asparagus boosted levels of important enzymes that break down alcohol after heavy drinking. A researcher involved with the study says eating asparagus the next day can help tame hangovers, too. Whether you choose an asparagus dish or not, be sure to eat before you drink, warns Aaron White, PhD, director of the Underage and College Drinking Prevention Research program at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Eating allows more of the alcohol to break down in the stomach before your body absorbs it. “Having food in the stomach while drinking results in a slow trickle of alcohol into the bloodstream versus a rapid rise when one drinks on an empty stomach,” White explains. This means a smaller impact on the brain, less of a buildup of toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism and, presumably, a more tolerable hangover.
2. Prickly Pear
This cactus fruit possesses mega anti-inflammatory agents that can help offset the damage done by drinking alcohol. Researchers at Tulane University discovered that drinkers who took prickly pear cactus extract five hours before drinking had 50% fewer hangover symptoms compared with drinkers who went without the extract. You can eat prickly pear as a fruit or in the form of an extract capsule, or drink prickly pear tea to help prevent a hangover.
3. Clear Liquids, Including Cocktails
To prevent a horrible hangover, it’s important to focus on clear liquids not just the day after, but while you’re drinking, too. (This includes the actual cocktail.) Stick with rum, vodka, and gin—spirits lower in hangover-causing congeners, a fermentation byproduct. Avoid more congener-rich spirits such as brandy, champagne, bourbon, cognac, whiskey, red wine, and tequila. Since alcohol blocks the release of vasopressin, a hormone that signals the kidneys to conserve water, it’s easy to become dehydrated while drinking. White recommends drinking water in between cocktails to stay hydrated and dilute the alcohol already in your stomach. The morning after, reach for some clear organic broth to help replace the salt and potassium lost through drinking.
MORE: 10 Metabolism-Revving Foods
Gatorade has long been the hangover-curing elixir of groggy, regretful athletes everywhere, and with good reason—it’s rich in the electrolytes you need to bring your body’s chemistry back into balance. But what if you could have the same super does of hydration and electrolytes without the calories or syrupy aftertaste? Several of our staff members swear by the hangover-curing magic of Nuun electrolyte enhanced tablets. They have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving, and the U Natural Hydration and All Day Hydration lines contain no artificial ingredients. Not only is Nuun easy to pack in your bag and have with you at all times, but it also comes in subtle flavors that go down easy—even when you’re slightly queasy.
5. Coconut Water
Coconut water is a natural electrolyte-boosting option, free of nasty ingredients like fake food dyes. A ConsumerLab.com analysis released earlier this year found that Zico Natural Pure Premium Coconut Water contained electrolyte levels on par with Gatorade, while some other coconut water brands did not live up to the hype.
Eggs provide protein to help stabilize blood sugar, while the cysteine in protein may help break down toxins, according to The Big Doctors Book of Home Remedies. Look for organic pastured eggs, meaning they come from hens raised on grass and supplemented with organic feed. This type of egg can quickly help replenish your body with B vitamins drained from drinking alcohol.
Ever feel physically weak after a night of drinking? You’re not imagining it—your muscles really pay the price when you overdo it. If you’re feeling a little shaky after a night of drinking, reach for a banana to help restore your body’s potassium levels and improve muscle function.
8. Crackers and Honey
Real honey is loaded with antioxidants and concentrated fructose, which will help flush out any remaining alcohol from your system more quickly. If you can’t stomach eating raw honey the day after drinking, use a cracker as the delivery system.
This South American grain is growing in popularity in the states, and it can also come in mighty handy during a hangover situation. Drinking depletes your body’s amino acids—the building blocks of protein—but quinoa’s well-balanced amino acid profile can help repair the damage done.
There’s something extremely comforting about toast. Whether you’re hugging the porcelain throne due to the flu or a hangover, it seems like toast is always there to help you get back on your feet. Your liver is also grateful for a few slices of toast after a night of drinking. Under normal conditions, your liver automatically produces more glucose from stored carbs when your blood sugar dips. But when you drink, your liver is busy metabolizing your alcohol and can’t always regulate your blood sugar, leaving you moody and drained of energy. Toast is also easy on the tummy, making it a perfect hangover food for queasy mornings.
11. Tomato Juice
Organic tomato juice can send a natural jolt of vitamins and minerals into your alcohol-ravaged body, but that’s not its only perk. Tomato juice hydrates, and just like honey, the fructose in the juice will help flush out lingering alcohol.