Don't you love it when a fun night out with friends turns out into a morning of...feeling not so great? Yes, I'm talking about having a hangover, and shockingly enough, I have yet to hear anyone answer "yes" to this question. While we accept hangovers (and the headaches, nausea, dizziness and other bodily horrors that they bring into our lives) as the price we have to pay after imbibing, there's no question that they can put a serious damper on your day.
If you've noticed that your hangovers seem to vary wildly in severity, in ways that have no relation to how many shots you did the night before, you're on to something — there are a lot of factors in play when it comes to what kind of hangover we end up with (and many of them have little to do with how much we drank). For example, if you haven't slept well throughout the work week, you should probably keep your Friday night cocktails to a minimum, as your body is already exhausted. And although your bank account may thank you for drinking the cheapest beer, wine, or liquor option available when you hit the town, your body will be considerably less appreciative the next day, as low-quality alcohol leads to a more severe hangover most of the time.
But perhaps most importantly, the foods you eat before a night of drinking can make or break whether you wake up in the morning feeling ready to conquer your day or ready to crawl back under the covers in misery. We all know that drinking on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, but there a certain foods that are especially helpful for preventing that awful morning after headache.
Here are eight foods that can help prevent hangovers. Do Future You a favor and nosh on them before indulging in a few drinks this weekend:
Eggs contain cysteine, which is an amino acid that helps break down the toxins found in alcohol. They are also a source of taurine, another amino acid that has been shown to prevent liver damage. So yes, going to brunch is actually totally good for your health.
Research conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists shows that asparagus extracts can help the body metabolize alcohol more quickly. The extracts are most abundant in the vegetable's leaves, and they contain amino acids and minerals that will help stave off a hangover.
3. Chicken Breast
Like eggs, chicken contains cysteine and will aid in the breakdown of alcohol's toxins. Chicken is also one of the healthiest sources of protein, which will provide your body with the energy to fight a hangover.
4. Prickly Pear Cactus
OK, fine, yes, cactus is a little bit harder to find during your early evening visit to the diner or food truck than eggs or chicken breast. But if you can find some before going out, you should consider throwing back a serving of it: A study conducted by Tulane University found that ingesting prickly pear cactus extract before drinking significantly reduces hangover symptoms. It lowers the risk of liver inflammation by reducing the body's level of C-reactive protein. It can be found in either liquid or pill form, and should be taken at least five hours prior to consuming alcohol in order to achieve the maximum effects.
5. Whole Wheat Bread
Complex carbohydrates like whole wheat bread or muesli will help keep your blood sugar up during a night of drinking, which can keep your hangover in check the next day. I persistently searched for evidence that my preferred carb, pasta, is a magical hangover preventer, but I was left disappointed. Still, it can't hurt (pasta would never do anything to hurt us!). So I'll mix it in with some asparagus and chicken before my next night on the town.
Alcohol consumption depletes your body of vitamin B, but luckily, hummus is one of the best — and tastiest — sources for this vitamin. Since hummus isn't usually eaten alone (although I've been known to do this when my grocery situation becomes especially dire), spread it on a whole wheat pita and you'll have two hangover preventers in one easy snack.
Since drinking causes your electrolytes to drop and dehydration leads to hangovers, snack on pickles before taking your first sip of alcohol. They will keep your electrolytes in balance and prevent dehydration.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats around and it slows the body's absorption of alcohol. Although some people down a tablespoon of olive oil before heading out the door, you don't necessarily have to be so hardcore — dipping it in bread or drizzling it over the side salad that accompanies your meal works just as well.
So next time you're ready to enjoy a night out with a few drinks, make sure you are rested, hydrated, and have eaten a good meal that contains carbs, protein, and fat. It may seem like you're making a good call for your health if you simply eat a salad as your main course before going out, but your body will not be very happy with you the next morning. Let's all raise a glass to delicious drinks and the foods that make the morning after so much less painful!