The Best Diet for Healthy Vocal Cords (What to Eat for Healthy Vocals)

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The best diet for healthy vocals will vary from person to person. But in the main, it will have lots of plant-based goodness, be rich in protein, low in saturated fats and dairy, with little sugar and packed with vitamins and minerals.   

Are you always following the latest eating fad and wondering what you should be avoiding and what will help make your singing voice strong? In this article, we will provide you with guidance on what your meals and snacks should look like.  

The best diet for healthy vocals 

There are lots of different diets out there. Have you ever wondered what the best diet for singers is, or what foods and drinks are best for singers? What you eat or drink can actually affect how healthy your voice is, and how quickly you recover from strain or infection. Understanding how to structure a singer’s diet for a healthy voice is paramount if you want to enjoy peak performance.  

While the singer’s diet is individual and will not always suit everybody, there are certain regimes that help and some that hinder.  

As in sports, nutrition plays an important role in a singer’s lifestyle, as a healthy body is vital for performance and endurance.  

Singer’s diet for a healthy voice 

good food for singers

Let’s take a look at the popular diets of today: 

Paleo diet 

This ‘hunter-gatherer’ regime takes you back to prehistoric times, focussing on unprocessed, natural items – all of which are good for vocal health. However it’s quite extreme and hard to follow, and whole grains and legumes aren’t included, which contain useful proteins for vocal health.  

5:2 diet

A form of fasting, you intake very few calories two days a week and eat what you want on the other five. You can also do intermittent fasting, for which there may be health benefits. But as a singer, a sustained release of energy is generally more helpful, so take care of any kind of fasting. Rather focus on including nutrients and having a balanced diet.  

The Atkins diet

Atkins became popular in Hollywood on the 1990s. It’s a low carb high protein diet that can be quite extreme. As a singer, lighter meals are better, and the whole carbs are helpful for maintaining energy without weighing you down. As this tends to be a weight loss plan, it’s not ideal for your increasing nutrition for vocal health.   

The Dukan diet 

Similar to Atkins, this is a low carb, high protein option. It’s divided into phases for weight loss and maintenance. As the emphasis isn’t on science-based health, we don’t recommend this one.  

The Alkaline diet 

Consuming food and drinks high in alkaline and low in acidity is excellent for vocal health. This is the closest on the list to good old fashioned healthy eating. We’ll reveal more about the alkaline diet later in the article.  

The Zone diet

The Zone concentrates on blood sugar levels, aiming to stabilise them by eating low GI foods. As these foods are released into your bloodstream slower, they provide energy for longer. This is a good thing for protecting your vocal health and maintaining energy on stage. But any diet that restricts your intake a great deal can be counterproductive. So while it’s worth eating a low GI diet, we don’t recommend strictly following The Zone.  

There are also diets based on food intolerances (such as gluten-free) and ethics (vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian), but we’ll take a look at those later.  

Best foods for singers 

good foods to eat before singing 

So we’ve established it’s more about achieving a balance, getting plenty of good food and cutting out the nasties, rather than following a specific regime. Here are some of the best foods for singers.  

Prioritise foods in your diet that are rich in antioxidants and that is anti-inflammatory.  

Antioxidants are found in vitamin C (citrus fruit and leafy veg) but also Vitamin E (leafy greens, nuts, and seeds) and vitamin A (carrots, Cantaloupe, Apricots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, dark leafy vegetables, and broccoli).   

Consuming a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can help protect vocal cords.  

Beetroots are also an excellent source of antioxidant, but they are best consumed during a non-singing performance day as their high nitrate content can tighten vocal cords.   

Singers should focus primarily on an alkaline diet, especially on the day of a performance. Too much acidity in food can hinder vocal cords health and the immune system.   

Foods that are alkaline are considered to have a PH above 7. An alkaline diet is mostly based on fruits, vegetables, and plant-based nutrients such as:  

  • Alkaline water 
  • Tofu  
  • Almonds  
  • Coconut water  
  • Herbal teas   
  • Spinach  
  • Avocado  
  • Cucumber  
  • Sweet potatoes  
  • Buckwheat  
  • Celery   

Foods to improve singing voice 

what should singers eat and drink

The best ways to increase alkaline levels in the body is to consume a predominantly plant-based diet and green juices. You should invest in a juicer (even a basic non-expensive one will do) and make your own juices with carrots, celeries, spinach, green apple, and kale.   

To maximise performance and vocal health, an optimal diet should provide all the right macronutrients and micronutrients.    

Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair and can provide the essential energy for stamina.  Good protein sources are 

  • Lentils   
  • Lean meats 
  • Fish 
  • Eggs 
  • Beans   
  • Chickpeas   
  • Tempeh   
  • Tofu   
  • Nuts   
  • Hemp seeds  
  • Protein powders (pea, rice and hemp choose 100% isolate)  
  • Chia seeds  
  • Quinoa  
  • Nuts 

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and help support our immune system.  

The best sources of carbohydrates include  

  • Vegetables  
  • Fruits  
  • Quinoa  
  • Buckwheat  
  • Beans  
  • Spelt  

Today it is widely preferred to avoid wheat-containing foods as they can have inflammatory effects on the body and vocal cords. If you want to have pasta or bread, choose wheat-free alternatives such as spelt, buckwheat or lentils.   

Nutrients for singers

Micronutrients are the essential elements needed for a good functioning of the body, they include minerals and vitamins. Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It supports every muscle function essential for singing performance. It is highly present in leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, parsley, fruits, nuts, hemp seeds. 

Because our soils are more depleted in magnesium than 50 years ago it is very difficult to get the mineral from food. Therefore, you can get your magnesium by supplementing in magnesium citrate (the most absorbable and bioavailable form of magnesium) or use magnesium chloride spray.  

Potassium also regulates fluid, nerve and muscle function. It is greatly available in food such as coconuts,  sweet potatoes, and fruits.   

Vitamins for singers

best foods for singers

Vitamin B complex is known to boost energy and decrease stress. Most Vitamin B rich foods include Nuts, sweet potatoes, eggs (rich in vitamin b12 but always best to choose free-range and organic for ethical and health benefits), avocado, broccoli, chickpeas, and whole grains.  

Vitamin D is important to maintain energy, immunity and mineral absorption. The most natural source of vitamin D is exposure to the sun as it is synthesised through the skin so the best is to get outside, go for a walk, run or cycle. Alternatively, you can get the vitamins from eggs (free-range and organic), mushrooms, almond milk, tofu, flaxseeds, salmon (wild organic).  

Vitamin C is important for tissue repair and regeneration. It supports immune function and prevents fatigue. The best sources of Vitamin C are fruits such as kiwi, apples, mangoes, citrus fruits, melons, vegetables such as dark leafy green (spinach, kale, and parsley), wheatgrass.   

If you are going to consume fatty food, it is preferable to consume plant-based fats, especially for singers as they are more alkaline – these include nuts, avocado, coconut oil, hemp oil and olive oil. Food that is too acidic can hinder vocal cords and compromise performance.    

Foods singers should avoid 

Now we have listed all the foods that are beneficial for singers, let us look at the ones to avoid.  

Acidic foods, though they don’t directly touch the vocal cords, are best being avoided especially before a show as they can cause the vocal cords to be irritated and also aggravate acid reflux. Dairy especially milk is not only inflammatory but also can cause acid reflux and mucus to be formed which can irritate the vocal cords.  

Processed sugar should be shunned, but not the natural fructose found in fruits. The same as milk, processed sugar is inflammatory and can cause the appearance of phlegm also decreases energy and compromises the immune system.   

Fried foods are heavy on the digestion so also can trigger heartburn and which will cause the vocal cords to not sound as clear.  

Caffeine interferes with mucus production and dehydrates the vocal cords. It also tightens the muscles which may have a negative effect on the vocal cords.   

Other bad foods for singers 

Soda drinks are full of sugar and often acidic. This may cause heartburn which will irritate the throat. The gas can give you wind too. And sugar-free sodas are packed with harmful sweeteners that are bad for long term health.  

Spicy food may again cause heartburn and cause discomfort during a performance but isn’t necessarily bad for the voice. In fact, curries contain many great ingredients like ginger, honey and lemon. So not great right before a show, but a low dairy dish is perfectly fine at other times.  

Beetroots are very healthy and are known to boost stamina. However, one of its side effects is that they can temporally tighten vocal cords. Do eat them, just not before singing.  

Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants and also prevents free radicals. However, it also may trigger acid reflux and contains a lot of caffeine which can dry the vocal cords. Milk chocolate is full of dairy and sugar so should be eschewed.   

Following a vocal diet

Food singers should avoid

We’ve told you what foods to eat and which to avoid, but what about following a food group elimination type of diet. Some of the most common ones are:  

  • Vegetarian 
  • Pescetarian 
  • Gluten-free 
  • Vegan 

A gluten-free diet may be a medical necessity if you struggle to digest these products. You should always follow the advice of your doctor in these cases. Similarly, some people will need a lactose-free diet, cutting out cheese and milk products containing lactose. Neither gluten nor lactose is good for singers, so cutting them out can only be a good thing – although isn’t necessary for those who aren’t allergic.   

Following a vegan diet as a singer could have some benefits, particularly from a health perspective. There are some very famous vegan singers including Beyonce, Jason Mraz, Ellie Goulding,  Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Sia, Leona Lewis, Joss Stone, Bryan Adams, Pink, Richard Marx, and Erykah Badu.  

Vegan diet for singers 

Milk and dairy can be bad for the singing voice. Dairy is strictly off the vegan menu, so by simply eliminating milk and cheese from your diet, you could improve your performance. Similarly, chocolate has milk in it, and this can result in acid reflux, so you will eliminate that too if following a vegan diet. 

Just make sure that you eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as these will help keep your mucus membranes in good shape, and therefore, your singing voice. 

The bottom line is; if you have adopted a vegan diet as a singer for ethical and health reasons, there’s no reason why it will have any negative effect on your singing performance, as long as you get enough nutrients.  

We’ve given you some recommendation for the best and worst foods for singers. Our bodies react differently though, so it’s about finding what works for you. 

The singer‘s diet is not all that different than any other healthy diet, but there are just certain types of food to be careful of such as acidic foods, caffeine, and dairy. Overall, consuming an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin will definitely help you feel at your best and enhance your vocal health.  

Related Questions 

  • What are the best snacks for singers? 

Here are some suggestions for great snacks and simple meal ideas: hummus and raw vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumber, red bell pepper), fruits and almond butter, smoothies, raw fruits and nut bars and fresh fruits. 

  • What do singers drink before they sing?  

The number one best drink for a singer to keep hydrated is water. Tap water contains a lot of fluoride and other heavy metals that research shows can be detrimental to health in the long term. The best types of water are filtered water or mineral water. Slowly sipping water throughout the day is the best way to drink water rather than huge gulps.  

What kind of tea is best for singing? 

The next best drinks would be herbal teas such as ginger, chamomile, peppermint tea, lemon and honey, liquorice and throat coat tea. Coconut water is a fantastic source of potassium and is another great alternative method for staying hydrated.  

What do you think is the best diet for healthy vocals. Are there any foods that have made your voice better? Let us know in the comments below.