Pregnancy cravings are a universal experience for all expecting moms. However, not all cravings are created equal. There is a wide spectrum of cravings and what you might find yourself hankering for changes from one trimester to the next. Some common pregnancy cravings include anything salty, sweet or spicy. Other common longings are for specific foods like pickles and ice cream, or even for strange combinations like pickle ice cream!
If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know is pregnant, and that means there’s a good chance you’ve heard about, or have experienced pregnancy cravings already. Your body craves certain things during different stages of pregnancy because of these changes in hormone levels. Understanding why these cravings happen can help you manage them better.
It’s common to crave chocolate because it’s a sugary treat that provides a quick energy boost. Wanting chocolate can also indicate a deficiency of vitamin B, which chocolate is rich in. However, research has shown that these cravings could be more psychological rather than biological. Lots of us have the idea that pregnancy is the perfect time to overindulge. This mentality plays a big part in sparking this intense need for chocolate.
Nothing hints at pregnancy like the infamous pickle cravings. According to a study by Frontiers in Psychology, there are a few possible reasons for why pregnant women experience these strong feelings. Pregnancy causes hormonal changes which can alter the body’s senses and ignite strong food cravings. Research has also found that pickles could contain nutrients that ease nausea which triggers the craving. Finally, longing for the briny vegetables could indicate a deficiency in sodium and magnesium. For a light, healthy pickle hit, you could consider low-fat, pickle-flavor snacks, such as dill pickle seasoned popcorn.
Cravings for red meat can indicate a deficiency in protein and iron, both of which pregnant women often lack. According to Mayo Clinic, a pregnant woman needs 27 milligrams of iron per day to maintain circulation between mom and baby. Furthermore, meat comes with several safety factors to consider during pregnancy, which makes many women view meat as a “forbidden” food. One way to give yourself a strong desire for something is the idea that you can’t have it.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fruit is one of the things craved the most, in all stages of pregnancy. Although studies have found no definitive reason why, cravings for citrus are likely hormonal. Pregnant women will often feel a need for foods with strong flavors such as sour citrus, because their taste buds have altered and they like to “shock” them. A 2014 study tried to determine if citrus cravings are due to a nutritional deficiency, such as vitamin C, but no link was found.
Remember that while fruit is healthy, it is also high in natural sugar, so try to limit your fruit cravings to 2-3 servings a day. During pregnancy you should drink 8 to 12 cups of water every day, so if you’re craving citrus and want to get your hit in a healthy way, why not try citrus infused water?
Similar to some of the other foods mentioned, ice cream is a popular craving because it’s an indulgent treat that many class as “naughty”. That aside, a desire for ice cream and other dairy products can indicate a calcium deficiency. High levels of calcium are necessary for the baby to remain healthy as it develops. Many women are turned off by the strong smell of cheese or even milk, so go to ice cream for their fix. Pregnant women often don’t want anything heavy, and ice cream is light and provides a fast energy hit.
Alongside being a popular comfort food, peanut butter is packed full of nutrients, which could be a key contributing factor to intense cravings. Although more research is needed, pregnant women could feel a need for peanut butter because of the spread’s high level of antioxidants, magnesium and protein. The great thing about peanut butter is that it’s a plant-based protein, so it provides a good source of the nutrient for vegetarians and vegans.
This might sound strange, but many women have this bizarre craving. When pregnant women desire non-food items, they could have a condition known as Pica. This is an eating disorder where a person craves things not considered as food, usually due to nutritional deficiencies. Cravings for coal could indicate low levels of iron, a mineral that coal is rich in. Women have also been known to crave chalk, which can indicate a calcium deficiency.
Craving seaweed can be a sign that pregnant women are missing out on the essential nutrient iodine. Brown seaweed, in particular, is dense in this nutrient. Iodine is essential for the production of hormones that contribute to the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. However, it’s important to note that pregnant women should limit their intake to 220 micrograms daily. Seaweed also contains B12, which makes this plant a star source of nutrients for vegetarians and vegans.
It’s perfectly normal to have strong cravings during pregnancy, and it’s fine to listen to your desires so long as you maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Remember to eat primarily whole, fresh foods, and take everything in moderation. If you want a bar of chocolate, have it! Just try to be conscious of the size of the bar – and don’t follow it up with a second!