The most important job that the voice box (larynx) performs in the body is to keep food and liquid out of the lungs. Your mouth and throat lead into the pathways for both breathing and swallowing. At the larynx, those passages divide and remain separate. Your voice box, by its position and action, serves as the switching station between these pathways. This is central to its biological job of protecting the airway.
Most of the time, your airway is open and your esophagus (the tube from your throat to your stomach) is closed. At the moment of swallowing, the voice box closes the airway completely so that what you swallow doesn’t “go down the wrong way.” Put simply, under normal circumstances, nothing that you eat or drink directly touches the vocal folds. IF something enters your airway by mistake, your body coughs it out to prevent choking and to keep your lungs clean.
Food you eat doesn’t touch your vocal folds. So although it’s fine to eat things that feel good – steamy soup in cold weather or ice cream when your throat is hot and dry — the more important principle is to choose foods based on overall health rather on than what might feel good for an instant on your throat. Your voice is kept more directly comfortable by how you use it and by what’s in the air.
When choosing a way of eating that enhances your vocal health, there are three main principles to follow; maximize general wellness and stamina, guard against acid reflux irritation of the vocal cords, and keep the digestive system comfortable rather than overstuffed.
A healthy voice requires a strong body with generally good muscle tone and endurance. So plan to eat a balance of protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, and moderate amounts of healthy fats and oils. The current typical American diet of highly processed, packaged food lacks many essential nutrients. The average American eats only two serving of fruits and vegetables and nearly 100 grams of fat per day with a goal of no more than 30-40 grams per day. Americans may accurately be described as the most overfed, yet under-nourished population in the world. Singers who eat this way should be advised that they may be trading their health for convenience. There are plenty of books and beliefs about the best way to select food. Consult with a dietician or nutritionist for individualized help.