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    Nutrient-dense and delicious, almonds have all sorts of health benefits. Plus, try our savory squash and almond soup recipe.

    A symbol of hope and prosperity in Eastern cultures, the almond used to be known for its fat content but has now made its way to the top of power-food lists. This nutrient-dense tree nut -- from the same family as peaches and apricots -- has become best known for its many health benefits. Eating a handful of almonds a day may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and diabetes. These tasty tidbits are also an excellent source of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) and manganese -- 1 ounce (that’s about 24 almonds) has 35% and 32% of the RDA respectively. And with only 1 gram of saturated fat, 13 grams of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, 6 grams of protein, and 160 calories per ounce, it's clear that almonds are a friend of any true health nut.

    Roasted Curried Squash Soup with Almonds

    1 large butternut squash
    1 large acorn squash
    1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
    1 whole garlic bulb
    ½ tsp olive oil
    1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, divided
    5 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
    ½ cup apple juice
    1½ tsp curry powder
    ½ tsp nutmeg
    salt and pepper to taste
    ½ cup fat-free half-and-half
    6 tbsp fat-free sour cream or plain yogurt
    1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried chives

    1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
    2. Cut each squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place cut side down along with onion on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
    3. Cut top off garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil on cut surface, wrap bulb in aluminum foil, and place on sheet with other vegetables.
    4. Roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool.
    5. Scoop flesh from both squashes and squeeze out garlic flesh from bulb, placing all in a heavy-bottom pot along with onion, ½ cup almonds, chicken broth, apple juice, and spices.
    6. Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Using a hand or traditional blender, purée soup in batches until smooth; return to pot and add half-and-half and cook until thoroughly heated.
    7. Serve immediately with sour cream or yogurt, remaining almonds, and a sprinkle of chives.

    Makes 8 servings

    Per serving: 186 calories, 8 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 77 mg sodium, 5 g sugar. Calories from fat: 39%.

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