Overindulged? How to avoid hangovers – insight from a dietitian

By: Sophia Lin

Raffles Hotel Arcade and Star Vista
Posted on: 5 Jun 2024

We have all had too much to drink at certain times in our lives. Having a hangover is your body’s reaction to the metabolising of excess alcohol. Typical symptoms include feeling tired, weakness, being thirsty, having a headache, muscle aches, nausea, stomach pains, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and increased blood pressure. Not fun.

At a biochemical level – how does alcohol affect the nutrients in your body?

  • Reduction of niacin (Vitamin B3), thiamine (vitamin B1) – these are involved in metabolizing alcohol. Therefore, we will need a higher intake w to replenish.
  • Vitamins B12, folate and vitamin A – alcohol changes the absorption and storage of these nutrients. (These effect of this can be illustrated by blackouts during heavy drinking).
  • Loss of Zinc, magnesium and potassium – The loss further disrupts the electrolyte balance and immune system. The lack of these minerals is central to the unpleasant feeling of being hungover.

How to replenish nutrients (with these nutrient-related foods and recipes):

Niacin:

Can be found in beef, beef liver, pork, poultry, fish, brown rice, fortified cereals and breads, nuts, seeds, legume, bananas. A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Thiamine:

Can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, pork, fish, beans, lentils, green peas, enriched cereals, breads, noodles, rice, sunflower seeds, yogurt. A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Vitamins B12:

Can be found in fish, shellfish, liver, red meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, fortified nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereals, enriched soy or rice milk.
A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Folate:

Can be found in dark green leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli), beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh fruit, fresh juices, whole grains, liver, aquatic foods, eggs.
A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Vitamin A:

Can be found in leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli), orange and yellow vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other winter squash, summer squash), tomatoes, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, mango, beef liver, fish oils, milk, eggs.
A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Zinc:

Can be found in shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster), beef, poultry, pork, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals.
A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Magnesium:

Can be found in almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beans (black, kidney), soybeans, soymilk, cooked spinach, Swiss chard, white potato with skin, brown rice, oatmeal (instant, whole oats), salmon, beef, poultry, banana, raisins, dark chocolate (at least 70%), milk, yogurt.
A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Potassium:

Can be found in dried fruits (raisins, apricots), beans, lentils, potatoes, winter squash (acorn, butternut), spinach, broccoli, beet greens, avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, oranges, orange juice, coconut water, tomatoes, dairy and plant milks (soy, almond), yogurt, cashews, almonds, chicken, salmon. A recommended recipe can be found HERE.

Zinc and niacin have been shown to decrease the symptoms of a hangover. This is due to the increased rate in metabolising the excess alcohol. Recommended dietary intake of zinc is 11mg per day for men and 8mg per day for women. For example, 1oz/30g of oysters would provide you with 9mg of zinc.

 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for niacin and its equivalents is 16 mg per day for men and 14 mg per day for women.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Oats with milk, sunflower seeds and grapes

Oysters, egg with Asian vegetables, brown rice, papaya, dragon fruit  

Salmon, baked potato, broccoli, apple 

Niacin

2mg

5mg

19.5mg

Zinc

4mg

13mg

2mg

Total zinc: 19 mg; Total Nicotinic acid 20 mg

Take Home Messages:

  • Consider increasing zinc and niacin when consuming alcohol. Keep in mind chronic heavy alcohol consumption leads to malnutrition and is negative for your overall health.
  • Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seafood can ensure adequate vitamins, minerals for electrolyte balance and alcohol metabolism.
  • Longevity studies support moderate amount of alcohol, 1-2 drinks at each time, up to 4 times per week.

If you would like to discuss your drinking habits in a ‘safe space’, please reach out to Osler Health and any of our doctors can support a discussion of your drinking and overall health. If you wish to discuss your diet and nutrition, please make an appointment with Sophia Lin (dietitian) for a consultation.

Raffles Hotel Arcade Star Vista