Everyone knows that people need fiber, especially if they spend any time watching TV commercials these days. There are plenty of people telling us that we need fiber and that there are less gross ways to get it than ever before, but that doesn't mean we understand all of the benefits of a high-fiber diet, and especially the ease with which we can add a little fiber to our diets if we need more.

It's funny to think about fiber, which essentially is something your body can't digest and therefore just passes through your system unchanged. Why would we want that in our bodies?

Insoluble fiber is helpful because it helps to bulk up your stool and helps you to be more regular in your bowel movements. (Not going to mince words, people). It's found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, and quite a few vegetables.

Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water, but it doesn't just go away. It forms a kind of gel that helps to lower cholesterol and lowers glucose levels - which is great news for people at risk of heart disease or diabetes. To get these kinds of fiber in your diet, look to add peas, citrus fruit, beans, oats, carrots, etc. to your diet.

So what are the benefits? Well, first there are the obvious ones. Adding fiber to your diet is the best way to prevent constipation and to avoid digestive problems - irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, or diverticulitis. However, it also does some things you wouldn't expect, like lowering your cholesterol, helping to control your blood sugar, aiding in weight loss (if only because you have to chew so long that you stop eating sooner), and possibly reducing your risk of some cancers. All that for some wheat and oats? Not too shabby!

As you get older, you need more fiber in your diet. Men under 50 need about 30 grams a day, while men over 50 need about 38. Women under 50 need 21 grams a day, and over 50 they need about 25. How much is that really?

Well, 1 cup of split peas is about 16 grams of fiber (but that's high). A cup of raw raspberries will give you 8 grams, while an oat bran muffin will only give you 5. Any kind of oatmeal will give you about 4. You can see that it can actually add up quickly if you stick to healthy foods, but since whole wheat bread is only about 2 grams a slice, bread may not be your best options for getting lots of fiber quickly. Instead, make sure to eat fruit at every meal, to start off the day with a high fiber cereal, to eat fiber-filled snacks and lots of whole grains. You'll be surprised how quickly you can add fiber to your diet and start getting the health benefits.