Is spicy food bad for singers, or does it have benefits? The answer really depends on what else you’re ingesting with them. Some spices have excellent properties for the voice, but unhealthy take-outs, ready meals and super-hot ingredients can be detrimental.
Perhaps you love exotic dishes packed with heat, but you’re worried about how eating them might affect your vocals? In this article, we’ll reveal which spices could improve your sound and help you to recover from a cold. We’ll also offer advice on what to do if you’re due to sing after overindulging in a curry or chilli.
Is spicy food bad for singers?
The question of whether spicy foods are good or bad for singing can be confusing. It’s not clear cut, because it depends on a number of factors, such as what you’re eating and how you’re eating it.
So, should singers avoid spicy cuisine altogether or are there certain spices which are good for your voice?
Benefits of spicy food
Milder spices are great in moderation. They can have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, as well as boosting your immune system. This can help alleviate a cold, reducing breathing problems, clearing sinus congestion and helping with voice recovery. Having a clear throat and reducing phlegm is important for every singer – especially before hitting the stage.
Disadvantages of spicy food
Spicy food is often ready-made in the form of hot curries or Mexican dishes. Foods from a takeaway or ready meal contain higher quantities of salt and fat. This is bad for blood pressure. Hot foods containing chilli can irritate the stomach lining causing heartburn, acid reflux or even ulcers. Your lips, tongue and even stomach may feel like they’re on fire. As you age, you often lose tolerance for very spicy dishes.
Are spicy foods bad for your voice?
Spicy foods can be bad for singers because they’re often combined with oil which can add grease to your throat and can cause phlegm. This massively affects your tone, and there’s then a huge temptation to clear your throat. Doing so involves your vocal cords suddenly smacking together which can lead to vocal fatigue.
Can you lose your voice by eating spicy food?
The salt present in some spicy dishes dehydrates the voice by absorbing any moisture. This makes it difficult to sing. With a dry mouth, your vocal cords aren’t lubricated which limits their flexibility. Add to this the vocal fatigue from throat clearing and you may have an increased risk of some vocal issues. It’s highly unlikely you’ll lose your voice by eating spicy food alone, it just might increase the risk if you’re already experiencing some hoarseness.
But there are some spices that improve your voice. If you cook your own meals with plenty of beneficial ingredients and less of the bad stuff, spicy food can be excellent as part of your diet.
How does spicy food affect the body?
Here are some great spices to take as a singer, with information on how they affect your body.
- Turmeric contains curcumin which is an ingredient used to treat respiratory problems. This spice is a powerful antioxidant which can help reduce airway inflammation. Even if curcumin isn’t present in turmeric, turmeric on its own is just as beneficial for your health. It can prevent infection and protect the lungs from exhaust fumes, dust, viruses, and cigarette smoke.
- Garlic might not seem like a spice, it’s still in the spicy-food family. Garlic can help to prevent the common cold and is often found in supplements for flu. Eating garlic when you have an infection can help to speed up your recovery time. Eating 1-2 garlic cloves a day when you first feel the symptoms can significantly help to eliminate a sore throat and congested sinuses. This is also a primary ingredient in home remedies along with chilli peppers, onions and horseradish. Mix together with ½ tsp hot sauce and water. Drink to help with congestion.
- Cayenne pepper has many health benefits – including relieving a stuffy nose and lowering your body temperature if you experience sweats. It can also decrease mucous when you consume it regularly. This spice can also help with voice recovery if your throat feels hoarse or you’ve overworked your vocal cords recently. Add ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper to warm water and mix together. Gargle this mixture for 10 seconds and spit out, repeating a few times if necessary. If your voice doesn’t seem back to normal, repeat a few hours later. Be careful not to swallow this as it could burn your lips. As cayenne pepper is a light spice, it doesn’t cause any major issues when transferring through different registers because this spice doesn’t irritate the vocal cords.
Singing after eating spicy food
As acid reflux and indigestion can be a real problem after eating spicy food, always carry some over the counter remedies, antacids or chewable chalk-based tablets. This will help relieve any discomfort. You may find your voice is clearer, especially if you’d previously been bunged up. But you may also want to brush your teeth, suck a mint or use some mouthwash. Especially if you’ll be close to others. Spicy dishes are often laden with garlic and onion which, while good for your vocals, won’t give you the nicest breath.
What helps the stomach after spicy food?
Drink milk, lassi or yoghurt to take away the heat. This lines the stomach and eases the irritation. However, as dairy isn’t good for the voice, it’s best avoided before singing. As dairy is so often paired with spices (for the calming, balancing effect it has), it can be best to avoid these foods, or at least keep them mild, so you don’t need to down a glass of milk afterwards.
What to drink to have a good voice
Avoid the temptation to clear your throat after eating spicy foods. Instead drink warm tea with fresh lemon juice and some high-quality honey to prevent any vocal damage and clear away the phlegm. Water is also a great way to soothe any irritation from the heat in the spices.
In summary, it’s best to avoid eating moderately to very spicy meals on performance days. It’s not necessary to eliminate them completely from your diet, unless you have significant issues with heartburn and reflux. For most people, when eaten in moderation and prepared by yourself, they can be great for your health and voice. Just limit the high salt, high fat varieties and minimise your intake of dairy products.
- What should singers eat and drink?
A balanced diet with your five a day, plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals is ideal. Dairy is best avoided before a show as it clogs up the vocals. You can find out what to eat and drink to have a good voice in this article.
- What is bad for your voice?
As well as certain foods, there are some things that can harm the voice. These include: straining for high or low notes, screaming, singing with poor technique, smoking, vaping, excessive caffeine intake and too much alcohol.
- In ginger good for the voice?
Yes! Ginger has lots of excellent properties that help reduce inflammation and help your voice stay healthy. It’s commonly used in Thai, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, and for baking. You can also drink it fresh in warm water or add it to lots of different dishes.
Have you found that spicy food is bad for singers, or does it give you some zing before a show? Let us know your favourite hot dishes and the ingredients you swear by for vocal health.