What Are Pregnancy Cravings?
Pregnancy cravings are urges to eat certain foods or combinations of foods. They are similar to when you have food cravings at the peak of your menstrual cycle, just more intensified.
They are usually caused by the hormones released during pregnancy. Interestingly, again and again, many women report similar cravings. Read more to learn about what those popular foods might be.
Why Do You Get Pregnancy Cravings?
Hormones cause pregnancy cravings. These hormones change the receptors in your tongue and make you want to eat more. Often, they can make you want to eat foods you previously did not like.
They also cause you to dislike certain foods that you previously liked. While the majority of the foods you crave are primarily due to hormones, sometimes the foods you crave indicate that you need specific nourishment.
Culturally, pregnant women craving strange foods is a huge phenomenon. Many movies and films depict pregnant women fiending for bizarre foods. For many years, it was not understood why they craved these things. However, with modern science, we know much more. The hormones linked with pregnancy food cravings are:
During pregnancy, women are not able to absorb the hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone that curbs your appetite and stimulates your immune system. It does so by being in conversation with the “appetite center” of the brain.
No leptin means that many pathways associated with hunger remain unblocked. One such pathway is called neuropeptide Y, one of the strongest hunger pathways that significantly increases food intake.
Women's sense of perception has been studied quite a lot. In fact, one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy is sensitivity to smell and/or a metallic taste in the mouth. Around 75% of all pregnant women say that they experience one of the symptoms.
These symptoms may be associated with changes in hormone signals from the growing uterus to the appetite center in the brain. This happens as the uterine and gestational areas of the body have connections and interact with each other.
Common Pregnancy Craving Foods
Another piece of evidence to suggest pregnant women's cravings are hormonal or biological is that over time, women seem to crave the same foods. We'll take a look at these common cravings on the next slides.
Craving fruits while pregnant is a pretty ideal situation as fruits can be pretty healthy. Some people speculate that craving fruit suggests a lack of vitamin C, but this has not been proven yet.
If you are craving fruit as a pregnant woman, make sure to eat fresh fruit and not canned fruits. Fresh fruit will give you more nutrients without sugar, whereas canned fruits often come with quite a bit of sugar. Watch out for sugar if you have diabetes, and speak with your doctor to stay healthy. Grapefruit and berries can be specifically helpful for mothers who have diabetes.
Ice Cream and Other Sweets
High-calorie sweet foods, especially ice cream, are very high on the list of frequently craved food by pregnant women. The reason is not entirely understood. It could be because your body may instinctively crave very high-calorie foods to support your transforming body. Or, higher heat of the body caused by increased blood flow could make you crave colder, sweet treats. Some speculate it is the calcium in ice cream that draws pregnant women to it.
Either way, ice cream is also high in sugar and other unhealthy additives. Therefore, it is essential for you to either limit your ice cream consumption or find healthier ice cream types. There is no problem with indulging in your cravings once in a while. Still, it is also essential to think about the health of both you and your baby when you eat food during your pregnancy.
Chocolate is another sweet treat that is commonly craved during pregnancy. This could be because chocolate leads to the production of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan creates feelings of happiness. But, like ice cream, it is also high in sugar and other things that you may want to avoid during pregnancy. Therefore, you should use caution when eating chocolate as a pregnant person.
Fish, Pickles, and Other Savory Foods
Often, women will crave salty or sour foods like pickles or salty foods like potatoes, french fries, or salted fish. This is thought to be the product of how you lose lots of fluid and sodium during the first trimester. This loss is believed to be the product of increased levels of progesterone.
As well as ice cream, dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk are often commonly craved foods for pregnant women. These are also thought to be the product of craving more calcium. A great way to reduce your ice cream consumption but still get your sweet, dairy-rich snack is to make a yogurt and fruit smoothie.
Pica cravings occur when a pregnant woman craves things that have little to no nutritional value. Often, these cravings are for non-food substances. There are no confirmed causes of this, but some people speculate it is connected with an iron deficiency or underlying illnesses. This is quite rare for pregnant women to have, but it still happens.
Some examples of things you may crave are:
- Laundry starch
- Burnt matches
- Coffee grounds
- Baking soda
- Cigarette ashes
Eating any of these can pose a risk to you and to your growing baby. Talk to your doctor if you find yourself craving any non-food items.
It’s Okay to Crave
As previously discussed, craving certain foods during pregnancy is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy. It is natural and normal to crave food, even if you may feel out of balance or strange about what you are craving.
It is generally safe to satisfy your food cravings in moderation. However, remember that you only need to consume 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy. While you indulge, remember to use your food as fuel so that your baby can grow. Take in processed foods and foods with lots of sugar or calories in moderation. Try instead to take in a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables with whole grains and pasteurized dairy.
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- Hawai’i Pacific Health: “Uncovering the Causes of Pregnancy Cravings.”
- Synapse: “The Mystery of Pregnancy Cravings.”
- American Pregnancy Association: “Pica Cravings During Pregnancy.”
- Intermountain Healthcare: “Why Pregnancy Can Make You Have Weird Cravings.”
- Lamaze International: “Pregnancy Cravings and Ice Cream.”