All Systems Go! - Fitness goals for a healthy living

There are a lot of factors that help one stay healthy. While general good health reduces your risk of developing certain conditions, additional effort from your side helps you to maintain optimum health and function the best you can. Staying healthy means eating right, exercising regularly and, of course, keeping your mental well-being in check as well.

Decide on the number of calories you require to pull through the day that come from carbs, protein, fat, and vegetables.

  • Understand how many meals you can eat in a day. Meal sizes should vary based on sex, body size, fat percentage, and physical activity.
  • Determine the choice of protein, carbs, and fat that pairs well for your body. Each individual should know which kind of carbs, protein, and fat suits them. Choose faster-digesting protein when following a workout. On other days, choose complete, lean protein from whole sources like eggs, poultry, fish, and tofu.
  • Choose whole grains that are slower-digesting or low glycemic index foods and fibre-rich carbs. If your goal is to lose fat, add higher carbs meals post-workout, as they digest faster.
  • Select fats that are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
  • Eat vegetables at every opportunity. Choose fruits and green leafy vegetables, as they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. They help lower the risk of many cancers, nutrient deficiencies, reducing free radical damage, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease. They also help maintain an alkaline load in the blood. Protein and grains present acid loads to the blood, so it’s important to balance them with vegetables and fruits.
  • Avoid foods you’re allergic or intolerant to.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time. If you’re planning a cheat meal, follow intermittent fasting or eat lower-calorie meals prior to it, to save calories.     --- Sumana


But let’s take a closer look and get to the nitty-gritty. Your body consists of a number of systems that have specific functions necessary for everyday living. By maintaining these systems the right way, you can do as much as possible, in the best way possible. So here are some simple food and fitness tips to optimise each of your body’s critical systems.

Anil Rao, a Hyderabad nutritionist and fitness trainer of Fitalicious fame, shares some healthy facts and a few simple rules to follow when working towards your fitness goals. Your objectives can be anything, like eating healthy, feeling better, losing weight, gaining muscle, or even something as simple as repairing your gut.         

Inhale Wellness, Exhale Weakness

Taking in oxygen from the environment and converting it into a form that cells can use is the main function of the respiratory system. Your lung health is critical here, as your lungs accomplish this task by passing large amounts of blood over gas exchange membranes. Lungs are like a cog in the wheel that makes your body work effectively by keeping at bay breathing problems like pneumonia, COPD, and asthma.

What to Eat:
Fatty fish and walnuts: Fish is high in fat and contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are linked with lung health.

Apples: A team of researchers found that good lung function was associated with high intake of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, in addition to fruits like apples.

Apricots: Apricots are high in vitamin A content, which supports respiratory tract linings and can lower the risk of lung infections.

Broccoli: Considered one of the best greens for lung health, broccoli is a highly antioxidant vegetable that helps reduce the risk of pulmonary disorders.

Poultry: This includes chicken, turkey, and other small poultry birds, which contain vitamin A. It is said that your body absorbs animal-based vitamin A better than plant-based.

Beans: Kidney, pinto, black, and other beans are good sources of antioxidants, which fight off free radicals that can damage the lungs.

Berries: Berries are rich in antioxidants. Acai and blueberry are the best sources.

What to Do:
Make your lungs stronger and more resistant to fatigue and infection by exercising your breathing muscles. Pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are the two most important exercises that you can practice; try these exercises for five to 10 minutes for three to four times a day for good results. Since aerobic exercises work your heart and lungs and improve their endurance, walking and using a stationary bike are two good options for this type of activity. This helps your body use oxygen more efficiently and breathe with minimal effort.

Get in My Belly

The digestive system ingests food and breaks it down into usable nutrients, while the excretory system helps expel the solid waste products. And like all systems of the body, your digestive and excretory systems too need a plentiful supply of minerals, vitamins, and energy to regulate the functions of the kidneys and liver, and to keep other systems working properly.

What to Eat:
A healthy system needs a variety of nutrient-dense foods like legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lean proteins and low-fat dairy also provide the essential nutrients your systems need. It’s best to avoid fast, processed, and junk foods and empty calories to make your excretory system work as it should. Avoid toxins. The more toxins you ingest, the bigger the load on your excretory system. Some ways to avoid toxins are by avoiding drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Try to choose organic foods whenever possible to decrease the quantity of pesticides you consume.

What to Do:
Yoga, pilates, and cardio workouts are suggested. Exercises like backward and forward bends, spinal twist, swimming, Pawan Mukthasan, Suryanamaskar, Sethubandhasana, and cycling target the abdominal muscles. They indirectly boost digestive efficiency and nourish the intestines, while also removing toxins and providing an ideal metabolic state.

In addition to exercise, try to be conscious of the lotions and body-care products that you use. Sometimes, slathering them on can have the same effect as ingesting them. They can enter your bloodstream, and must be processed by the liver!

All Hands to the Pumps

The main function of the cardiovascular/circulatory system is moving materials like oxygen, nutrients, chemical messages such as hormones, and waste products from one system to another. It includes the heart, arteries, and veins pumping blood at very high speeds.

What to Eat:
The foods you eat can affect your heart in many ways. Eating healthy can help reduce the risk of heart disease or even a stroke.

Healthy fats: Some fats are actually good for you. So for cooking, choose monounsaturated fats like virgin coconut oil, olive oil, or canola oil. Go for avocados that are a good source of monounsaturated fat, and nuts and seeds for polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are found in tuna and salmon, too.

Whole-grain foods: They’re high in fibre and complex carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables: They contain fibre, minerals, and vitamins that are good for your heart. Beans: Dry beans and peas, as well as lentils, offer protein and fibre. Low-fat dairy: Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of yoghurt, milk, and cheese products. Protein: Some protein-rich foods are lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs (no more than four egg yolks a week) and many other sources.

What to Not Eat:
Of the many things to avoid to stay healthy, reducing the intake of sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugar, and alcohol can help you keep your heart healthy.

What to Do:
Exercising regularly makes your heart stronger. It helps pump more blood with each heartbeat and delivers oxygen throughout your body. And with more oxygen, your body functions more efficiently! You can also lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and LDL levels and raise the levels of HDL. Aerobic exercise makes you breathe deeply and rapidly, which in turn makes your heart work harder to pump blood. It also raises your heart rate. Try to follow these exercises for up to 30 minutes for four to six times a week.

Go With the Flow


The renel/urinary system cleans dissolved and dangerous waste products from the blood and excretes them. The organs for this system are the kidneys and bladder. All blood passes through the kidneys, which has special filters that allow dangerous substances to pass out of the bloodstream while retaining the helpful substances.

What to Eat:
When the kidneys don’t work properly, waste builds up in the blood. So it’s necessary to follow a kidney-friendly diet that helps decrease the amount of waste in the blood and keeps the system healthy. Some delicious and healthy options are:

Cauliflower: It’s a nutritious vegetable that is loaded with nutrients, vitamin C and K, and B-vitamin folate. It’s also full of anti-inflammatory compounds and is an excellent source of fibre.

Blueberries: Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, blueberries are low in sodium, phosphorus and potassium, which is essential for a kidney-friendly diet.

Sea bass: Has high-quality protein like omega-3, which can help reduce inflammation and may help decrease the risk of cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety. It’s low in phosphorus compared to other fish.

Red grapes: High in vitamin C, contain flavonoids, and reduce inflammation.

Garlic: Provides a delicious alternative to salt and is a good source of manganese, vitamin C and B6 and contains sulfur compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, try to incorporate egg whites, buckwheat, olive oil, bulgur, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, arugula, macadamia nuts, radish, turnips, pineapple, cranberries, shiitake mushrooms to your diet.

What to Not Eat:
While dietary restrictions vary, it is recommended that people with kidney problems should restrict the intake of the following: Sodium:  Damaged kidneys tend to fail in filtering out excess sodium, which can cause the blood levels to rise. Limit it to less than 2,000 mg per day. Potassium: To avoid dangerously high blood levels, limit potassium to less than 2,000 mg per day.
Phosphorus: Excess phosphorus cannot be removed by the kidneys; restrict it to less than 800-1,000 mg per day. Protein: Damaged kidneys have difficulty clearing out waste products from protein.

What to Do:
Low-level strengthening exercises may be beneficial for you; use low weights and high repetitions, and avoid heavy lifting.

A Balancing Act

The endocrine system consists of tissues that send out chemical messages to the rest of the body – they’re called hormones. Each of these messages has its own unique purpose and the systems of the body respond accordingly. These glands are the pineal gland, pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, thymus, ovaries, pancreas, and testicles.

What to Eat:
Foods for thyroid: The largest endocrine gland, the thyroid, can have a significant effect on the overall functioning of the endocrine system, in the case of its disease and inflammation. Vitamin D helps control the production of the thyroid hormone. Ideal foods are cod liver oil, eggs, fortified dairy products and cereals, and mushrooms.

Selenium is a mineral that is needed to maintain normal thyroid function, and is found in organ meats, clams, pasture-raised pork, raw Brazil nuts, grass-fed beef, tuna, sardines, shrimp, and wild-caught salmon. Iodine is also important for metabolic processes, and is available in foods such as cod, wild-caught salmon, scallops, shrimp, sardines, sea vegetables, whole grains, and plain yoghurt.
Foods for adrenal health: It is suggested to have anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fatty fish.

Foods for hypothalamus: The hypothalamus plays an important role in metabolism and weight management. A 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats can improve hypothalamus health and function. A diet low in saturated fat and rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids will help. Flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, wild-caught salmon, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, sardines, eggs, and tuna are a few effective foods.

Foods for pineal gland: Vitamins B-5 and B-6 help the pineal gland to produce and release melatonin, which are rich in avocado, beans, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, lentils, tuna, and turkey.

What to Do:
It is suggested that yoga is one of the best ways to balance the endocrine system. Yoga poses have a direct effect on the endocrine organs, which stimulate the organs like the kidneys, liver, and pancreas, encouraging hormone production, and distribution. The chakras and endocrine glands align and communicate in important ways, and by practising yoga we can support greater hormonal balance through harmonised chakras.

You’ve Got the Nerve!

The nervous system allows you to sense stimuli and communicates perception, emotion, thought, and responses from your surroundings through the brain and nerves. In order to fire these signals, the neurons in the brain uses huge amounts of energy, as much as 25% of the calories we eat every day. The nervous system needs this to enable you to perceive, feel, think, and respond!

What to Eat:
Green leafy vegetables: Rich in vitamin B complex, C, E, and magnesium, which are important for the proper functioning of our nervous system.

Fish: The nerves in your body are protected by myelin sheaths, which contain high levels of fatty acid. So those who are deficient in fatty acids may suffer from damaged nerves. Fish has omega 3 fatty acids and help heal the nerves and nervous system.

Dark chocolate: Full of flavonols that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, dark chocolate can help lower your blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and heart.

Broccoli, eggs, salmon, avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and nuts are a few other foods that are good for the nervous system.

What to Do:
One of the best ways of fortifying your central nervous system is by exposing your body to sunlight. Apart from that, it is advised to walk barefoot. It can aid the nervous system and improve your overall health and physiology. Walking barefoot can further help improve your sleep and strengthen your immune system. It can reduce the risk of heart disease; normalise biological rhythms, improve your senses and posture, and can lessen the severity of menstrual cramps.

No Pain, No (Muscle) Gain

Apart from allowing the body to move on command, the muscular and skeletal system lets your body move and stimulates the internal organs. The main types of muscles in your body are smooth muscle, skeletal, and cardiac muscle.

What to Eat:
In addition to protein, foods for healthy bones and muscles include: Calcium: Milk, cheese and other dairy foods like yoghurt and ice cream, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra (not spinach), soya beans, tofu, nuts, bread and anything made with fortified flour, and fish (sardines and pilchards).

Vitamin D: Oily fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel, red meat, liver, and egg yolks.

What to Do:
Experts say that you can prevent joint pain by incorporating regular strength training to your workout. Strengthening exercises condition the tendons, bones, muscles, and cartilage. A few exercises that can help you achieve this are side plank, single-leg lunge, single-leg deadlift, single-leg calf raise, single-leg bridge, and side leg lift.

Get Glowing

The integumentary/exocrine system covers your body, regulates its exchange with the outside world, and includes skin, nails, sweat, hair, and other glands that secrete substances onto your skin. Fun fact: the skin is also a large organ in the body.

What to Eat:
Eating foods from all five food groups is a good start. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and drink more water to keep your skin in good condition. Other foods that can have a positive effect on your skin are:

Avocados: A good source of biotin, they prevent dry skin.
Green tea: High in polyphenols.
Tomatoes: Known to slow cellular damage.
Salmon: Helps improve the skin’s elasticity.
Eggs, walnuts, and beans.

What to Do:
Breathing exercises, Shirshasana, facial massages, yoga, and cardio workout. These are a few activities to follow for healthy skin.

Immune to Illness

The most crucial function of the lymphatic/immune system is fighting infection. It is a circulatory system that carries water, white blood cells, and other substances. Lymph moves slower than the bloodstream to give the white blood cells more time to find and attack invaders.

What to Eat:
Feeding your body certain foods can help keep your immune system strong. Try citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and clementines. In addition, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, yoghurt, almonds, turmeric, green tea, papaya, kiwi, poultry, sunflower seeds, and shellfish like crab, clams, lobster, and mussels have proven to be helpful.