FOLLOWING National Vegetarian Week, Globe reader and professional singer LISA MURPHY explains why she has gone one step further by foregoing all meat and dairy products and even cooked meals, for a Raw Food diet.

The benefit of her decision, she says, has been the dramatic improvement in her health.

When I was younger, I never really liked the green stuff'. I considered vegetables boring and unnecessary.

My idea of quality' food was to purchase a variety of little boxes containing my microwave meals for each day. I began to wonder why I always seemed to be getting ill - always getting colds or sore throats. My immune system was pathetic I even got chicken pox at the age of 18 even though I'd already had it as a child. I also used to frequently lose my voice, which didn't bode well considering my profession as a singer.

I went on like this for a few years, putting up with generally rubbish health and not making any connection with my lifestyle. At the age of 25, my body decided it had had enough of the subtle hints and upped its game slightly.

One morning I woke up and couldn't move my back had gone, for no apparent reason. I was stuck in bed for a week feeling useless and miserable.

Over time it gradually got a bit better, but from then on I always had problems with it.

I blamed everything - my bed, my work, the weather, my star sign (!) and so on. I tried lots of different remedies, but nothing seemed to work.

A couple of years later I read a book by Juliet Gelatley, The Silent Ark, and immediately became a vegetarian. I would challenge anyone to read that book and continue to eat meat. As I gradually changed my lifestyle - eating healthier, exercising and taking up yoga - my health began to improve.

I developed an interest in diet and nutrition, and began to realise what a huge connection there was between what we eat and how we feel.

And yet I still hadn't heard about the Raw Food diet. A few years ago I was working on board a cruise ship singing with a band, and was having dinner one night with a few of the staff.

A bit of a debate was going on about food - all of them were eating normal' meals apart from one quietly spoken, bright-eyed man whose dinner seemed to consist of nothing but a bit of salad. He was reluctantly being drawn into justifying his paltry' fare.

As he spoke about raw, or living' foods I listened in absolute fascination. It all seemed so simple and yet so extreme at the same time. What, no chocolate? Not even baked potatoes? Is it actually possible to live without beans on toast?

How, you may be wondering, does the simple act of not cooking your food lead to such improvements in health?

Raw foodists believe that cooking food destroys many of its valuable nutrients, and that the human body is intrinsically designed to eat plant-based foods in their fresh, natural state.

Followers have reported a reversal of many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, allergies, diabetes, and even cancer.

Not to mention the weight loss which occurs as the body naturally releases the toxins which have built up from years of processed food.

The diet is also extremely ecologically friendly, as packaging and processing are kept to a bare minimum.

As for myself, I'm constantly amazed at the improvements in my health my back pain has completely disappeared, and I've said goodbye to all those other little aches and pains that I thought were simply part of the natural process of getting older'.

I'm sleeping better, and almost never get colds or sore throats any more. I'm generally a happier, more energetic, upbeat person. I can honestly say, the whole experience has been nothing less than enlightening!

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