Protect bone and prevent breaks with this hero vitamin

This could be the simplest tip yet for boosting bone... gaining strength... and cutting the risk of a painful and potentially debilitating break or fracture.

All you have to do is boost your intake of something you know you need -- especially this time of year.

Vitamin C is a proven immune-booster that can help fight off the nastiest of the coming winter infections and help you recover quick if you do get sick.

But a new report finds that this powerful antioxidant has another trick up its sleeve.

And this one could be even more important, especially if you're a little older and concerned about your bone health (and, let's face it, who isn't?).

If you boost your intake, your risk of a bone break drops. In fact, every 50 mg of vitamin C you get each day will cut the risk of a fracture by 5 percent.

And it does it by stimulating special cells called osteoblasts that your body uses to form bone.

The new report in the journal Osteoporosis International backs up what some other studies have found, but there is a catch... and it's a big one.

You're probably not getting anything close to what you need for your bones.

One study published in 2009 found that the current recommended levels -- 75 mg per day for women and 90 mg for men -- are too low for bone protection.

In that study, the REAL benefits went to folks who got three or four times those levels: An average of 313 mg per day cut the risk of a hip fracture by 44 percent compared to "normal" levels of 94 mg per day.

Getting four times the recommended intake might sound a little high, but it's really right in line with what other studies have found to be optimal for overall daily support and immune system protection.

Of course, there is a downside to this, and it's one that many people don't even think twice about.

When folks want more vitamin C, they turn to orange juice.

And sure, it's a pretty good source of the stuff... but it also has about as much sugar as soda.

Pass on the OJ and get your C from a variety of sources every day. A cup of broccoli, kale, or papaya will deliver between 80 and 90 mg of C, while a cup of chopped red peppers will deliver nearly 200 mg. As well, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, and kiwifruit are all terrific sources of C.

Of course, there should also be some in your multivitamin.

If you add it all up and find you're still falling short, consider a supplement. Just don't take too much at once, because that can upset your stomach.

If you and your doctor decide you need higher levels of C, take smaller doses throughout the day.