UPDATED! SWEET POTATO PIE SMOOTHIE (V+, P, GF, NF, ChF, GrF)

NOTE: The pictures and recipe for this blog post were updated and improved in October, 2015.

This post is dedicated to all the breast cancer thrivers and survivors out there!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and there is no way I'm not using this blog to raise awareness about the C word!!! Because, shall I tell you a secret? I HATE Cancer. I LOATH it. I DESPISE it! I've never had it (Thank you God), but too many people I know have and it's ain't pretty.

I particularly dislike breast cancer; as a woman this illness evokes very strong sentiments in me and as someone who works in a predominantly female office (I'm an adoption social worker), I feel I'm constantly surrounded by it or the threat of it. That is because I am...

Just in the last 18 months three work colleagues of mine have been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Thank goodness they are alive and brave and strong and standing. And I admire their courage and determination to fight with all their might. All three of them seem to be doing amazingly well now, by the way :), but stats in the UK are depressing with more than 12,000 women and 80 men dying of the illness every year! :(

I know, it's not like me to write doom and gloom blog posts, so let's talk about the good news quickly, ok? The good news is that I so strongly believe that we each have the power to reduce our chances of getting cancer. Yup, you read that correctly. Big stuff eh?! So how can we take matters into our own hands and kick cancer to the curb? By eating the right food. Another big statement, I know. 
So what on earth is 'the right food'? Now here's where it gets a bit complicated, but only a tiny bit, so bare with me please. I know what you are thinking: There is soooo much conflicting information out there, how on earth can we know what we should and shouldn't eat? As a nutrition geek I have done a lot of reading up on the matter, delving into various written material by different authors, all expressing different perspectives. In doing so I aimed to get as rounded a view as possible. Though I am by no means an expert I personally feel that by far the strongest research points to a plant-based, seasonal, balanced and varied diet. (You can find some great books about nutrition, health and food on my post blog here). Therefore a plant-based diet is my weapon of choice; it's my way of empowering myself and my family. 

Let me be clear about two things though. Firstly, a predominantly plant-based diet doesn't mean you can only eat cucumber sticks and lettuce leafs. I hope this blog evidences that. Perhaps controversially I also think it can mean that you can eat some meat and dairy (though I choose not to) on occasion, as well as some processed foods like sugar for example once in a blue moon. It does however means that the majority of your food (read 95%!!!!) should be real and plant-based i.e. vegetables, fruits, seeds, whole grains, nuts, legumes etc.

Secondly, I am not in a million years suggesting that eating vegetables and fruits can guarantee that you'll never get cancer. Life isn't that simple. But I AM saying that eating a healthy plant-based diet has the potential to significantly reduce your changes of falling ill with cancer and to reverse very early stage cancers. YUP, I did just write that and I ain't taking it back!

So when I stumbled on THIS piece of research my eyes lit up and I knew I had to share it with yall! (click on it, it's short and sweet and well worth a read). Essentially it outlines that consuming 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene—a carotenoid in dark green, orange, and red vegetables—each day can reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 19%. HOORAY! Better yet, it states that ''one medium sweet potato contains two to three times the recommended dietary intake of beta-carotene, which will help reduce the risk for cancer and boost the immune system.'' It also notes that 1 cup of cooked butternut squash has a staggering 9.4 mg of beta-carotene.

That's why orange is the new pink you guys and guess what's on the menu today ;)?

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UPDATED! SWEET POTATO PIE SMOOTHIE (V+, P, GF, NF)

Preparation Time: 10 – 20min
Cooking Time: 10-15min (optional)
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2/3 cup sweet potato juice (you need about 400g of sweet potatoes to make this quantity of juice. Check my tips if you don't have a juicer)
2/3 cup almond milk, store-bought or home-made (find the recipe here)
1/3 cup canned pureed pumpkin OR make your own using 120g butternut squash/pumpkin
½ banana (fresh or frozen)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla seeds/powder/essence
1 date (optional, but I didn't use one)
a few ice cubes (optional, but I didn't use them)
a splash of maple syrup (optional, but I didn't use this)

IMPORTANT: Please read the tips below the recipe!

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Instructions:
Get all your ingredients out and on the kitchen counter.
Remember, you can use canned pumpkin puree if you like. I made fresh butternut squash puree by steaming the chopped and peeled butternut squash for about 10-15 minutes. Mashed it up and measured out 1/3 cup, which I placed into my blender; I used a vitamix, but any blender will do. Making your own means that you get more nutrients and you can be sure it's additive and refined sugar free. 

You are welcome to use store-bought almond milk, but making your own is so much fun and oh so yummy. Get the easy, simple recipe here.

Wash, peel and chop the sweet potatoes and put the pieces into your juicer (this is the one I've got). Pour the resulting sweet potato juice into your blender. Add the almond milk, spices, banana and any optionals you wish to the blender as well.

Blend until nicely combined. Serve and enjoy.

Tip 1: You can pour the home made sweet potato juice into ice cube moulds the night before and then take them out so that smoothie is cold and has the consistency of a milkshake. I made this at the height of fall, so I didn’t really fancy too cold a drink, but it’s up to you. You can also replace the sweet potato juice with high quality store bought carrot juice if you don't have a juicer. 

Tip 2: The time given here is with the assumption that your milk is made/bought and ready to go. Please add 5 minutes to your prep time if you are making the milk at the same time. Remember you can use a seed milk instead if you want to make this nut-free (find the recipe here).

Tip 3: You can use pureed sweet potato, pumpkin or as I did butternut squash. Be creative and use what's local, seasonal and to your liking.

Tip 4: As I made this during the colder months I used a fresh rather than a frozen banana, but if you prefer your smoothie a bit thicker – more like a milkshake – then use a frozen banana.

Tip 5: I did not use any added sweetener (i.e. no added date or maple syrup as the almond milk and sweet potato make this sweet enough for me). However of course it is your choice to use one or all of the added extras I suggested. By adding the sweeteners this becomes more like a pumpkin pie dessert drink rather than a sweetish refreshing beverage.

Looking for another recipe high in beta-carotene? Try this vegan papaya mousse, the abc juice, or this smashing warm curried soup.

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