You wake up, and you're groggy AF. Your head aches, you're as dehydrated as a raisin, and your gut has felt, well, better than it does right now. The weirdest thing about this gross, hungover feeling? You didn't even drink last night. But listen, there are foods that can make you feel hungover — maybe not quite as much as a few too many tequila shooters, but food hangovers are a real thing, and when you get one, it basically means your body's rejecting something you ate (even if that something was totally and utterly delicious when you first enjoyed it).
According to Carol Aguirre, MS, RD/LDN, a dietitian/nutritionist based in Florida, food hangovers are typically caused by a few common, and oh so delectable culprits. The first one? Refined sugars — which is sad for me, personally, because I have the biggest sweet tooth. Aguirre tells Elite Daily over email that foods that are high in sugar — like soda, candy, juices, chocolate milk, and all your good ol' processed foods — can cause that groggy, icky feeling that stays in your body long after you're done eating.
"Sugar spikes our blood glucose level," Aguirre explains, "which causes our pancreas to pump out insulin, which causes our blood sugar to drop." And before you know it, your energy, and your overall ability to feel like a functional human being, drops, too.
In addition to sugar, Aguirre says the types of carbs you're eating can affect whether or not you get hit with that hungover feeling, too. "Eating simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, white pasta, white crackers, white rice, cane sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, causes our blood sugar to spike up more rapidly than slower-moving complex carbohydrates," she explains. Uh, as someone who loves pasta, bagels, and basically all things loaded with carbs, that's definitely kind of a bummer.
But the good news is, you really don't have to cut your favorite carbs out of your life entirely to avoid a dreaded food hangover. According to Aguirre, it's all about balancing out your carb intake with that of your other nutrients — meaning you don't necessarily need to restrict or deprive yourself of anything, but rather, eat a little of everything to ensure you're satisfying all of your body's needs. For instance, the nutritionist/dietitian suggests, you could pair your carbs — say, pasta — with a source of protein, like chicken or fish, or even healthy fats like nuts, olives, or cheese. This way, Aguirre explains, you're eating foods that take your body a bit longer to digest, which means your blood sugar levels stay balanced, and in turn, you feel good instead of groggy.
Now, aside from certain kinds of sugar and carbs, Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD, a registered dietitian/nutritionist based in Washington, says that food dyes and additives can sometimes leave you susceptible to feeling hungover after the fact as well. "In my practice, Red Dye #40 has been linked with client migraines," Koskinen tells Elite Daily over email. It's worth noting that the research on associations between food dye and migraines isn't conclusive — but still, when all is said and done, the name of the game is finding relief from the pain and grogginess.
According to Koskinen, "the foods that can help you feel better are those that support the liver and its function of detoxifying the body." And which foods do that, exactly? The expert says that sulfur-containing foods like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts support the second stage of detox in the liver, meaning they'll help you feel your best and steer clear of that yucky, unexpected hangover.
"Instead of reaching for high-sugar treats, especially those that contain high fructose corn syrup, start with a bite of protein," Koskinen says — and that doesn't mean your alternatives to hangover-inducing foods have to be boring or bland. Find a big bag of mixed nuts that you can snack on while you're working, or treat yourself to a bunch of fancy, artisanal cheeses on a Saturday afternoon, and pair 'em with some sliced apples. And yeah, I guess a glass of wine would probably taste good with that spread, too — well, sometimes the hangover is worth it, right?