Weight loss and muscle gain are popularly espoused as the benefits of mindful nutrition. But that notion misses the essential role nutrition plays in chronic disease and the immune system.

“Healthy eating is one of the best things you can do to prevent and control many health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and even some types of cancer,” PeaceHealth of Oregon’s website advises.

For example, inflammation can exacerbate the autoimmune diseases, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Health experts say that meaningful nutrition, rather than dieting, is the fundamental course of action.

At an Oregon-based organization called Nutrition for Autoimmunity, Stephanie Sperring aims her work at reducing symptoms of autoimmune disease, such as chronic pain and inflammation through holistic management of nutrition and lifestyle, which she says often helps clients achieve remission from illness.

Sugar is a key culprit in inflammation and autoimmune disease. Though glucose is essential to human brain function, added sugar is highly addictive. A nutrient-rich diet of seasonal vegetables and fruits can help mitigate an indentured relationship to sugar.

According to dietitian Brooke Boskovich, fertility suffers from the dearth of vitamins and minerals in processed foods and inflammatory fat found in seed and vegetable oils.

“Nutrition is really connected to our mood and cycle hormones and can play a really big role on how those hormones are cycling and supporting one another,” says Boskovich. She focuses her practice on improving reproductive function through nutrition therapy.

Boskovich warns of “the major myth we have to be really restrictive or perfect with what we are eating.” Instead, she focuses on the nutrient profile of food, rather than eschewing entire food groups. After all, cells need fuel.

A chorus of experts, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, and the Center for Disease Control agree that a combination of physical activity and informed nutritional choices lead to positive outcomes of the body and can delay the need for medical intervention. For Sperring, autoimmune disease is no different. Whether you’re dealing with chronic illness or simply want to improve your overall health, Sperring says it’s important to maintain healthy gut bacteria and diverse microbiomes.

“Our bodies want to be healthy, and nutrition is 60% of the journey,” she says.