'Tis the season to let loose, but few things are worse than throwing back one too many celebratory drinks, only to wake up with bloodshot eyes and a pounding headache. Not to worry: With the help of New York City-based dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., we’ve gathered the 10 best foods and drinks to alleviate holiday hangover headaches. If you want to stay well into the New Year, keep these items on hand to ease post-party pain.
Reach for coconut water instead of a sports drink when you wake up. Coconut water is naturally rich in electrolytes—one serving offers 569mg of potassium—which makes it incredibly hydrating. An added bonus: coconut water has more flavor than regular H2O, which may make it easier to stomach.
Steam this vegetable before or after a long night of drinking—it could make the difference between a speedy recovery and spending an entire day in bed. Compounds found in asparagus help break down the alcohol, enabling the toxins to exit from your system more quickly.
“Scientists in Korea recently discovered that a product found in the shoots and leaves of asparagus boosted levels of the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which help digest alcohol,” says Zuckerbrot.
If your mom ever gave you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach, she had the right idea. Ginger has been a well-known cure for nausea for ages. However, when your stomach is churning and the mere sight of food makes you want to hurl, opt for fresh ginger root—it's more potent.
“If the thought of chewing on the food in its original form triggers your gag reflex, try adding grated ginger to fresh juice or hot water,” suggests Zuckerbrot.
Nothing depletes your body of vital nutrients more quickly than a night of drinking, which is why you feel so horrible the morning after. For a quick reboot, pour yourself a glass of tomato juice. This will help your body process alcohol more efficiently. “Studies have shown that tomato juice can boost liver function, which speeds up alcohol digestion. Other research suggests that the antioxidants and vitamins present in tomatoes quickly restock those lost during a night of drinking, making you feel better faster,” explains Zuckerbrot. And no, Bloody Marys don’t count here (unless, of course, they're virgin).
Ever since you took that first sip of booze last night, your liver has been working hard to filter the alcohol out of your system. And come morning, it could use a little assistance. Lemon-infused water supports detoxification by boosting liver function and tissue regeneration. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a glass of water and drink up. Lemons contains over 100% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C, which also supports the detoxification process by alleviating liver inflammation.
Alcohol depletes your body of essential electrolytes, which may explain that shaky feeling you get from drinking too much. “If you wake up the next morning with sore or twitching muscles, this is a clear sign your body is craving potassium," says Zuckerbrot. "Bananas are full of potassium so if you can’t stomach solid food, break out the blender and make a delicious smoothie.”
Eggs are everyone’s favorite hangover food. Scrambled, fried, or a nice hearty omelet should to do the trick. While you may think the grease that's used to cook them is what’s easing your pain, something else is at work:
“Eggs are rich in the amino acid cysteine that helps break down acetaldehyde, the toxin responsible for those awful hangovers," notes Zuckerbrot.
Most of these remedies encourage your body's removal of toxins—the faster they leave your body, the faster you will feel better. While the previously mentioned foods encourage detoxification by breaking down alcohol and stimulating liver function, there’s another route you can take: Heat things up and sweat 'em out.
“Consuming spicy food can cause you to sweat, releasing those pesky hangover-causing toxins," says Zuckerbrot. "Even better, spicy foods will cause you to drink more water, which will combat dehydration and ease the pain as well."
A spoonful of honey may be exactly what you need to hamper headaches. 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. "Try eating some whole-wheat toast drizzled with honey, or if you are too sick for solids, put a teaspoon of honey in a hot cup of tea," advises Zuckerbrot.
This might be one of the only times you'll ever hear us tell you to reach for a can of soda, but new research suggests that Sprite might be one of the best hangover cures out there. When your body processes alcohol, it produces a chemical byproduct called acetaldehyde, which is responsible for those awful feelings that come with hangovers. Acetaldehyde eventually turns into something called acetate, and when that happens, your symptoms let up and you start to feel much better.
A study published in Food and Function found that drinking Sprite expedited the process by which acetaldehyde turns into acetate, and as a result trims the life of your hangover.