By Angela Cortez
Seasoned professional singers know that a healthy body equates to a healthy voice. If you encounter any singer, whether opera or pop, they’ll give you a list of what they eat and what they try to avoid. Here’s a compilation of what food is good for singing and what’s bad for your throat:
- GOOD: Non-gassy liquids – One of the best foods for the singing voice is actually liquids. According to the New York Times, the Metropolitan Opera singers usually request for drinks like water, flat soda, and Snapple before they go on stage. Singers HAVE to stay hydrated, especially when they go for long periods of singing without breaks. It’s also best to have non-fizzy liquids to avoid the risk of burping while singing. Soprano Patricia Racette prefers watered-down Gatorade as it gives her an energy boost of sugar and electrolytes while she performs and also keeps her throat moist.
- GOOD: Honey – one of the best foods to eat before singing is honey as it soothes the throat (now you know why so many lozenges have honey in them!). Mix honey with warm water and a little bit of lemon juice (not so much as lemon can dry the throat) to get a particularly soothing and calming drink before you sing.
- GOOD: Foods with high water content – these include watermelon, apples, bok choy, and celery! These foods are good for singing as they hydrate your throat. Clear, broth soups are also one of the best foods for the singing voice – miso soup, ABC soup, Lotus Pork Rib Soup, and chicken soup are good examples, especially because the vegetables included in the soups will give you an extra vitamin boost! Take note though – tomato-based soups and cream-based soups are not good for the singing voice as they may cause acid reflux and increase phlegm production.
- GOOD: Protein sources – foods like roast chicken or baked fish are good foods for singing as they are lean sources of protein, which is essential for having energy and feeling full for longer periods, especially if the singer has a long show to perform.
- BAD: Dairy products – American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, a regular performer at the Metropolitan Opera, avoids eating dairy products as it creates phlegm and makes it difficult to sing. These include foods with cheese, milk, or cream.
- BAD: Caffeine and alcohol – these beverages are bad for singing as both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which leads to dehydration and therefore the constriction of the throat muscles. Tightness in the throat is not good for singing, as it disables the vocal folds from vibrating freely.
- BAD: Chocolate – French mezzo-soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac, who performs the opera Carmen quite often around the world, avoids eating chocolate on performance days as it makes her voice sound ‘furry.’ Indeed, chocolate coats the back of the throat and creates more phlegm; it may also cause acid reflux, which is not ideal for classical singers, whose voices need to sound crystal clear onstage.
- BAD: Anything too oily and spicy – this will come as bad news for singers who enjoy fast food or Asian food. These foods are bad for the singing voice as they grease up your throat and cause phlegm. Spicy foods in particular also cause heartburn. While eating these once in a while may be fine, try to avoid eating these foods on performance day!
Having said all of that, everyone’s level of tolerance for certain foods is different, because we are all physically different! Some singers might drink coffee between rehearsals and still sound fine, while others will follow this list fervently because their voices are more sensitive. It’s up to you as a singer to gage which foods are good for your singing and which foods tickle your throat (in a bad way). What’s even better is finding a good singing teacher (if you haven’t found one yet) who can tell you how to take care of your voice! You can find out more about singing and voice lessons.