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DOES YOUR DIET include enough vitamin E? If it doesn't, maybe it's time to change your eating pattern. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by substances called free radicals. Damage caused to the body by free radicals may lead to diseases such as cancer. The recommended dietary allowance for the alpha-tocopheral form of vitamin E is 15 milligrams; adults typically take in 8 to 12 milligrams. Vitamin E helps keep the body healthy and can ward off these diseases:

+ CANCER: Research has found that regular consumption of vitamin E may lower rates of prostate, breast, colon and cervical cancer.

+ HEART DISEASE: Vitamin E may help prevent or delay heart disease by targeting the free radicals that mix with the "bad" (LDL, or low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

+ ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE: Studies show that vitamin E may slow the disease's progression.

+ DIABETES: Though vitamin E can't prevent diabetes, it may help reduce health problems related to diabetes by attacking an abnormally high amount of free radicals in a diabetic's blood.

Vitamin E has also been found to boost the immune system, help delay the onset of cataracts in the eyes, lower the risk of asthma by reducing swelling in the respiratory tract and supplement hormone-replacement therapy for women in menopause.

STARTING WHEN CHILDREN are young, make a routine out of talking about the day. Around the dinner table, try FSGB (something Funny, something Sad, something Good, something Bad), where everyone tells a story from the day that fits into one of those categories. If you have a nontalker, create a "mood box" for each child. Paint the sides of a small box four colors: red for angry, blue for sad, black for rotten and yellow for happy. After school, each child turns the box to his mood as a signal to the family. This saves on sibling fights and offers an opening for you to be supportive: "Your mood box is blue. Something must have happened." If you ask a question, be satisfied with the answer. If you have a followup, count to 50 before asking so you put some time between questions. If something bad has happened and your child doesn't want to talk about it, give him a choice: "We can talk about it now or after dinner. You decide." Praise him when he gives you information. "You are such a good reporter! I really understand what happened." Alternate ways to gain information: Share a journal that you leave on each other's pillow when you have something to say; talk to his friends; be in contact with teachers, coaches, other parents.

IF YOU WANT TO work out in your living room instead of the gym, a new set of fitness-themed cards can help. The Strength and Toning Deck: 50 Exercises to Shape Your Body, by Shirley Archer (Chronicle Books, $14.95) will allow you to feel the burn at home. The deck has 50 cards, each bearing a different stretch, curl, lift or press designed to help you get in shape. The numbered cards feature detailed descriptions and illustrations demonstrating each move.

ABOUT ONE-QUARTER of American women giving birth will have a Caesarean delivery. A major abdominal surgery, Caesarean section requires longer recovery time than vaginal birth. The Essential C-Section Guide (Broadway Books, $14) by Maureen Connolly and Dana Sullivan lets moms-to-be know what to expect from the time they arrive in the operating room. From selecting anesthesia to getting back in shape, the authors detail the entire experience. The book doesn't neglect anxious partners, either. The chapter for partners includes answers to common questions, ways to help during recovery and how to deal with the mixed emotions that often accompany the news that a Caesarean is recommended or necessary.

From Times wires

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