Few too many drinks last night? Good morning hangover! Now, we know you probably have a time-tested hangover cure recipe – whether that’s a super greasy fry up, a cautious dry tea and toast or a trusty banana, but if you’re anything like us, you’re also always on the hunt for something better.
We’ve done some research for you and found some of the best foods and drinks to help you feel more alive after a heavy night.
Check out 22 of the best hangover foods and drinks + the science behind their sore-head-banishing powers!
What is a hangover?
When you drink too much alcohol, your body responds with a hangover.
They tend to be different every time and everybody has a different experience – but I think we can all agree that they’re not fun at all!
Dehydration is largely what causes a hangover as it makes you wee more. Although we can blame being dehydrated for most hangover symptoms1 , it is currently unknown what exactly is going on behind the scenes to cause so much discomfort.
That is why there is no specific ‘hangover cure’ – if there was, somebody would be making a lot of money! However, there are certain foods and drinks that can help to alleviate some of those horrid symptoms.2
Keep reading for 22 of the best hangover foods and drinks and discover why and how they may help you find your way back to the world of the living!
The best hangover drinks
First things first, grab yourselves a drink. If you’re hungover, you’re definitely going to need one.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes out body to wee more.
When we drink 50g of alcohol in 250ml of water (about 4 drinks) causes the body to eliminate 600 to 1000ml of water over a few hours.
Alcohol has this effect on the body because it stops an anti-diuretic hormone called vasopressin from being released. This stops the kidneys from reabsorbing (conserving) water and urine production is increased.
However, other mechanisms in the body must be at work to increase urine production. This is because when blood alcohol levels reach 0 during our hangover, anti-diuretic hormones continue to increase.
1. Fruity drinks
Getting your sugar levels back on track can help, this is because a night of heavy drinking can often cause low blood sugar and the body can struggle to produce enough glucose to support the normal functioning of the brain. 3
Fresh fruit juices and smoothies are a great way to supply your body with natural sugars quickly. The next time you wake up with a hangover try sipping on some fresh fruit juices, or better yet a creamy fresh fruit smoothie, for a dose of hydration, natural sugars, vitamins and minerals, as well as a boost of energy that just may make you feel better.
Just take it easy though, and don’t go chugging a litre of OJ all in one go – your blood sugar levels have been through enough the night before! Simply sip and alternate with water.
2. Herbal tea
Hydration is key, so almost every (non-alcoholic!) drink is a good hangover cure drink, herbal teas included.
Herbal teas are very hydrating and come with their own therapeutic benefits.
In an animal study, green tea extract was seen to significantly decrease blood alcohol concentration levels in alcohol administered rats. 4
Try adding a tablespoon of honey into your herbal tea – that way you get to enjoy the sweet taste and your body will enjoy the hydration and sugar boost.
The simplest yet most effective hangover drink will always be plain old water.
Make sure you drink enough water before drinking alcohol and in between each alcoholic drink if you want to avoid a hangover the next day.
Another great thing to do it drink roughly 1 pint of water before you go to sleep after drinking, keeping a glass of water by the bed to sip on if you wake up during the night. 5
Carry on drinking water if you have a hangover. It’s nice and gentle on the digestive system so is your best bet a lot of the time.6
4. Soda water
Don’t like plain water? Jazz it up a little with soda water.
Soda water with no added sugar or flavourings is just as hydrating as normal water.
One study showed that soda water may actually promote hydration, as people who drank mostly carbonated water drank more total water overall.7
5. Isotonic drinks
Isotonic drinks, aka sports drinks, have been specially formulated to help people rehydrate after or during exercise.
They are full of carbohydrates that provide energy, as well as electrolytes like calcium, chloride, sodium, magnesium and potassium that also become diminished as you become dehydrated by sweating.8
Isotonic drinks are also gentle on the digestive system, as they have been formulated to contain similar concentrations of sugar and salt as in the human body.9 As they replenish electrolytes in your body, they can also help to restore your blood sugar levels and help alleviate hangover.
6. Coconut water
Think of coconut water as a natural version of isotonic sports drinks. Research actually shows that coconut water is just as effective for rehydration as traditional sports drinks.10
Its known as one of the best hangover cure drinks because it contains lots of electrolytes like potassium and sodium, and well, it’s water! So, it will get straight to work at rehydrating your body.
The best hangover foods
Certain foods could help you quell your hangover symptoms too, like:
Not only are bananas easy to peel and eat from the comfort of your hangover duvet cocoon, they could also help you feel better after a heavy night of drinking.
When we drink alcohol, our bodies find it hard to stay hydrated. Losing so much water also sometimes results in depleted electrolyte stores, like sodium and potassium.
Low potassium levels can also be caused by vomiting, severe diarrhoea or diuretics – tablets that ease water retention11 and alcohol is a diuretic too! So, you can see why a hangover could also do the same. This potassium loss can result in symptoms like weakness and fatigue.12
Thankfully, bananas are one of the richest sources of potassium around and can get straight to work at replenishing your body’s stores. An average banana contains around 450mg of potassium and is one of the best and easiest to consume sources.13
Even if you’ve had your banana, don’t stop there. Keep it coming with the sweet stuff!
As mentioned above, your body’s blood sugar levels sometimes drop when you drink alcohol due to the way your liver and other organs react to it.
Low blood sugar occurs when the body cannot control its blood glucose levels. Your brain is powered primarily by glucose, which is why you can feel tired, weak and in a bad mood when you’re hungover.14
Who can turn down a reason to eat more sugar? Not us! However, it’s worth knowing that some sugary goodies are better than others when it comes to good hangover food and drinks.
You’re better off getting your sugars from fruits. This is because fruit is full of natural sugars, as well as vitamins, minerals and water, so it nourishes your body in multiple ways. Try the following when you next have a hangover:
Apples make a good hangover food as they contain water, fibre, vitamin C, antioxidants and potassium.
Watermelon is another good hangover food as it is very hydrating and full of vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Blueberries contain antioxidants that may help to reduce inflammation, as well as copper, folate, choline, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Complex carbohydrates are also great hangover foods, as they can help get your blood sugars back on track.
They release sugar slowly, so can help you feel better long term, and also come with lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Try including some of the following into your hangover breakfast:
11. Wholegrain bread / bagels
Bread, bagels and other wholegrain bakery staples release their sugars slowly and contain important fibre and B vitamins.
or oatmeal, are a complex carb full of B vitamins, so choosing them for breakfast could help provide some support during your hangover.
One study found that participants reported feeling less fatigued after eating a breakfast full of complex carbs instead of refined sugars. 15
13. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain lots of vitamin A, which may be able to help alleviate some inflammation from drinking16.
They also contain a good amount of magnesium and potassium, which often get depleted when we have been drinking.
14. Pickled foods
Another electrolyte that often becomes depleted when we drink alcohol is sodium.
Pickled foods are usually fermented with a bacteria-rich brine and contain high levels of sodium. In moderation they can be a great help in getting your body nice and hydrated again.
Studies have shown that when consuming foods or drinks containing sodium before or after dehydrating exercise helps to restore hydration in dehydrated subjects by increasing thirst sensation and increasing body fluid retention.17
So next time you’re hungover it may be worth trying the following pickled foods that are both good for you and high in sodium:
- Pickled cucumber (aka pickles)
- Pickled onions
- Pickled egg
Make sure to pair your pickles with water and other hydrating drinks to feel the full benefits.
Eggs are full of amino acids, including one called cysteine that your body uses to make an antioxidant called glutathione.
When we drink alcohol, our body’s stores of glutathione become depleted. The problem is, it is thought that we need this amino acid to breakdown toxic alcohol by products.18
Eating eggs and other foods that are rich in cysteine can help replenish some of these glutathione losses.
Try including some eggs in your next hangover breakfast!
Honey contains high levels of fructose which the body uses to recover from drinking heavily. 19
Fructose has also been shown to help the body get rid of alcohol.20
Try stirring a tablespoon of honey into tea – that way you get to enjoy the sweet, herbal taste, while your body enjoys the hydration and sugar boost.
Want to know one of the best hangover breakfasts you can have? toast.
17. Golden syrup
Just like honey, golden syrup is another hangover cure food also high in fructose – making it a vegan-friendly alternative to honey in hot drinks, in porridge, on toast, or on yoghurt to help the body get rid of alcohol.21
18. Bouillon / soup
Bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, is a great source of minerals and vitamins that need to be replaced in your body after you have been drinking.
It’s also easy on the stomach, making it less likely to make you feel nauseous.22
19. Leafy green vegetables
Folate is one of the B vitamins that may become depleted in the body when we drink alcohol.
In fact, alcohol interferes with folate absorption, and drinking too much can lead to a deficiency.23
Spinach and other leafy green vegetables like kale, cabbage and spring greens are a great source of folate and other B vitamins so try including them in your meals when you’re hungover. 24
Ginger is well known for its ability to help calm a nervous and nauseous stomach, so if you’re feeling a little queasy the day after drinking alcohol, it may help you get through it!25
Try grating it up in stir frys, mixing into cakes or mixed into a cup of tea / hot water.
People also ask
Is greasy food good for a hangover?
Getting a takeaway in may seem ideal when you’re stuck in bed with a hangover, but can all that greasy food actually help?
It may help slow the absorption of alcohol during a night of drinking if you eat greasy food before a night out but eating it while hungover could upset your already sensitive stomach and send you hurtling towards the bathroom.
Is milk good for a hangover?
Just like greasy food, a glass of milk could help slow down the absorption of alcohol if you drink it before drinking alcohol25 , but it probably won’t help when you’re hungover.
How do you cure a hangover fast?
Fastest way you can cure a hangover is to not drink at all!
As well as consuming some of the foods and drinks listed above, you can also try:
- Drink a pint of water before you go to bed after drinking
- Drink water in between your alcoholic drinks
- Do not drink more alcohol – “hair of the dog” is a myth and is a very risky habit to get into
What are the best alcohol alternatives?
Decided you’d rather not go through a hangover anytime soon? Don’t worry, there are lots of equally tasty (if not tastier!) alcohol alternatives you can drink instead.
Also give our complete guide to alcohol a read – there’s lots of info about the best alcohol-free wines, beers, ciders and spirits.
Last updated: 1st December 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.
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