Your voice, as with any other part of your body, can be used for performance and, not unlike a muscle, you need to take good care of it. This doesn’t just apply to how you use it, how often you practice or the exercises you undertake.
Just as a runner needs a strict diet, so does a singer. If you want to develop your singing voice, you need to eat the right foods in order to maintain the overall health of your body and vocal chords.
With this is mind, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the ideal foods to nurture your voice and which foods you should avoid.
Foods to Avoid
Now, this does not mean you have to totally abstain from these foods, but if you're serious about singing, and you value your vocal chords, here's a list of the top things to avoid:
Caffeine is a natural diuretic, which can eventually lead to dehydration. You need to keep your throat and larynx well hydrated for peak performance. This, unfortunately, applies to green tea as well. So consider herbal tea as an alternative.
Much like caffeine, alcohol can cause dehydration, which leads to muscle constriction in the throat. Tight throat muscles will make it harder to sing and can increase the risks of damage or injury if you strain them. Whatever you’re drinking at the time, alternate it with a glass of water to ensure optimal hydration.
Dairy can arguably cause an increase in phlegm in your throat and upper chest. At best, it is a heavy drink to have directly before singing and does nothing to improve your performance. Avoid milk, and ice cream in particular, directly before you sing.
Very Cold Drinks
Very cold liquids, especially directly before a performance, can cause rigidity in the throat, which can lead to bad vocals. It can also potentially increase the risk of strain or injury, so opt for warm drinks instead. This will help prepare your vocal chords for your performance.
Spicy food can cause acid reflux which is terrible for your throat and can cause rawness. At the very least, it is very uncomfortable and would be difficult to sing with. At worst it can cause heartburn which can make it almost impossible to sing. Best to avoid all spicy food before a performance.
Lemon water is very acidic and has a drying effect on your vocal cords and throat. Yes, lemon is alkaline in the body, but not when passing through your mouth and throat. It can cause coughing at an inopportune moment. This applies to all citrus based waters.
Nuts and Crisps
Any food items that leave fragments lingering in the back teeth or throat can be problematic for your vocal performance. Even if you don’t choke, they can catch in your throat and disrupt your singing. If there is no other option, ensure you rinse your mouth well after eating snack foods.
Foods That Help
Certain foods will help to keep you hydrated and performing at your peak:
Any fruits and vegetables that are high in water content but relatively low in sugar are good for your throat. Staying hydrated is very important for your voice and throat because dryness can cause cracking and coughing. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of fresh water.
Honey is a wonder food in many ways and for centuries has been used for all sorts of throatrelated maladies. Even if there is nothing wrong with your throat, a teaspoon of honey can stop your voice from cracking and can ease a voice that’s feeling a little rough from over-use.
Foods high in Vitamin A, E and C.
These vitamins are essential for a healthy immune system and that starts with your throat (or tonsils more specifically). Any infections, no matter how mild, can affect your throat and larynx. A healthy and vitamin-rich diet will help boost your immune system and prevent these infections from happening. Green, leafy vegetables, and sweet peppers are amongst the vegetables high in these vitamins.
Strawberries have long been held as a beneficial food for your larynx and throat. They have even been used as a natural remedy for bronchitis. Some sources even say that strawberries can prevent certain throat-related illnesses if consumed regularly.
The warmth of this tea is great for preparing your voice for singing and ginger is a well-known anti-inflammatory which will quell any coughing or cracking. For added benefit, mix a little honey in the tea.
In small amounts, olive oil (as well as avocado and some nut oils) can be beneficial for your throat as a lubricant. Olive oil is also beneficial for overall health and can boost your immune system.
Go With Your Instinct
You should also be intuitive about what you eat and drink with regards to how it affects your body and ultimately your voice. If you find that there is a food which doesn’t seem to agree with you, even if it’s not on this list, try to avoid it when you know you need your voice to be pitch perfect. And always make healthy dietary choices to ensure you take can enjoy the gift of singing for as long as you are able to.
About the Author: Brian Collins
I am a classically trained singer who believes that every instrument requires maintenance - including the voice! I started my professional music studies at the age of 8 and competed in and won several local and state piano competitions. I graduated with honors and earned my Bachelor of Music Education in 2003, and since then I have studied with famous musicians and teachers around the world. I have also completed hundreds and hundreds of voice lessons, exploring various methods, and attended countless seminars on voice coaching for all ages.