Have you ever heard changes in the quality of your voice that seem to have no reasonable explanation? Ever stopped to wonder if what you’re eating has an impact on your singing? It seems obvious if we think about it: what we feed to our bodies has a HUGE impact on our health. So how do we get a healthy singing voice?
Everyone’s body is different and you should definitely see a medical professional, such as a nutritionist, if you have concerns about your health or need diet advice tailored to you. However, gaining knowledge on the impact of different foods and how that might affect your voice is key if you want to keep your voice in top form. There are some foods that can benefit the voice but, most importantly, there are some foods that are a definite no-no for singers. So that’s what we’ll focus on first.
Healthy Singing Voice No-No’s:
Yes, bye-bye cows milk and all its byproducts if you want to have a healthy singing voice. If giving up dairy altogether seems a bit daunting right now, it’s still a fantastic first step to consider giving up dairy on the days leading up to a performance. Dairy is highly inflammatory and it can cause acid reflux and excessive mucus in the throat, which can irritate the vocal cords. If you’re craving similar flavours, we recommend Oat Milk (Oatly Barista is a must for us), Coconut Yoghurt and, as for cheese, Daiya is an amazing dairy free cheese brand we love. There is a long way to go with dairy free cheese of course, but we can guarantee you’ll see the impact on your vocal health very quickly if you cut or find plant based alternatives for your dairy intake a couple days before singing (or altogether).
Caffeinated drinks interfere with mucus production so they can be quite damaging for the vocal chords, especially in the days leading up to a performance. Caffeine is also a powerful diuretic, contributing to overall body dehydration. That being said, fear not: Coffee is not our enemy! Our recommendation is to ditch coffee on a singing day and keep your morning coffee on other days. Just remember to drink enough water on those days as coffee will make it harder to stay hydrated.
This means processed, refined, nasty sugar, not the natural sugar occurring in fruits, nuts and vegetables. Processed sugar can cause inflammation and lead to phlegm appearing in the throat. Big no-no on singing days. However, greatly reducing or eliminating processed sugar altogether will have such a huge positive impact on your health that you might want to consider ditching it. There are so many alternatives for sugar nowadays! Try stevia, xylitol, erythritol (our favourite), coconut sugar (unprocessed but quite high in calorie content, beware), maple syrup (again, another high calorie content option, consume in moderation).
4. Fizzy Drinks & Alcohol
Same as above, soda and some forms of alcohol are full of sugar. Soda is high in acidic content, which can irritate the throat. As for alcohol, it is highly dehydrating and can lead to severe damage of the vocal chords. Sometimes alcohol can also come in fizzy form and loaded with sugar, this is an extra dangerous drink for singers. If you want a healthy singing voice, we say run away from champagne! This doesn’t mean don’t ever have a drink with your friends again, just try to be mindful of what you put in your body, moderation is always key. Eliminating alcohol completely on the days leading up to a performance is best practice though, especially wines and beers. You can still enjoy a nice drink after your performance though! Yess!
5. Spicy & Fried Foods
These are included both for the same reason: they are heavy for your digestive system to process and can cause heartburn, which will tighten the vocal chords and cause lots of discomfort.
BONUS TRACK: Beetroot
Beets are packed with antioxidants, but it might be best to not consume them on a singing day. They are also high in nitrate content, which could cause tightness in the vocal chords. Don’t be too scared of them though, they are still incredibly benefitial!
Just like with any sport, you need your body to be healthy in order to sing. This means getting good quality sleep, finding a great vocal coach that can guide you and keep your voice healthy and: Nutrition. A healthy singing voice and food are more linked than we usually realize. If your goal is to be a top quality singer, being mindful of what you put in your body is absolutely crucial. Our advice is: don’t go in over your head! Baby steps will be key for achieving good vocal health. Eliminating certain foods and greatly reducing others, especially on performance days, will create such a positive impact on your voice that you might be motivated to make even greater positive changes.
As for foods that can help your singing voice, here’s our take:
Try to prioritise foods that are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. Antioxidants can be found in Vitamins C, E and A, all of these can be found in abundance in a number of vegetables, nuts and seeds. Choosing a diet that is high in whole foods plant based antioxidants is, in our opinion, the best choice for singers. This is our top 5 best foods for singers, but there are plenty more out there!
Healthy Singing Voice Must-Haves:
There’s a reason why ginger consumption is almost a stereotype amongst singers. Ginger is a staple of Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine for its immune boosting, anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is also known to decrease the unhealthy mucus around the vocal chords and it’s my personal favourite cure for a sore throat. Ginger has also been widely praised for its effectiveness in treating stomach pain and pre menstrual syndrome. Add that ginger to your supermarket purchase this week as your first step towards a healthy singing voice!
Behold one of the latest trends in natural health care: mighty turmeric. Although turmeric became popular quite recently, it has been a part of Ayurvedic and Unani practitioners in Asia for centuries. Amongst its many benefits, turmeric is known for aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, maintaining cholesterol levels, speeding muscle recovery and coping with stress.
As you can see, the benefits are countless and it’s actually very affordable. Our favourite way to consume it? Start the day by brewing a lovely cup of Golden Milk in the morning. See our recommendation below – even the name is fabulous!
3. Leafy Greens
Consuming an alkaline diet is a great way to avoid acidity in the vocal chords. High acidity levels can impact vocal quality and the overall immune system. Leafy greens are a great way to tackle this. Balancing raw and cooked greens is key, which is why our favourite way of including these amazing foods in our routine is through smoothies. Pop in a handful of frozen spinach or kale to your morning or post-workout smoothie! They’re also loaded with Vitamin A, magnesium and fibre. So give these amazing plants a chance. Here’s a delicious Kale Caesar salad recipe for you to try. Little pro tip: massage the dressing into the kale for a few minutes to make the leaves softer and easier to eat.
If you open my fridge any day you’ll always be able to find berries. They are super high in antioxidants and are anti inflammatory as well as a great way to keep hydrated. Eat them raw in your morning granola or porridge, as a healthy snack or blend them into your smoothies.
5. Plant Based Protein
Protein is key for muscle recovery and growth, and our singing muscles are certainly no exception. I have personally found that the best sources of protein for my voice are chickpeas, lentils and tempeh. I usually try to avoid eating beans more than a couple times a week as they can be a bit hard to digest. Chickpeas and lentils are an amazing alternative. My newly found culinary obsession is tempeh! Cut it in small chunks and season it with smoked paprika, soy sauce, black pepper, sea salt and a bit of agave. Toast them in a pan until crunchy on the outside and enjoy it with your favourite meals.