While pregnancy cravings are often depicted as wildly dramatic, for a lot of pregnant women they are no laughing matter.
In fact, a US study estimated that 50-90% of pregnant women experience specific food cravings. While cravings are a common occurrence during pregnancy, we still don’t really understand why they happen.
One theory that is regularly posited suggests that the body craves what it is lacking. So, if a pregnant woman has a sudden urge for salty crisps, her body might be low in sodium, and so on. However, there is little scientific research to suggest that this relationship between the body and its cravings exists.
Another possibility is an old wives’ tale that has recently been researched. This explanation states that the baby’s gender is responsible for various cravings and morning sickness.
Whatever the cause, pregnancy cravings are very real. Here are a few of the most common food cravings that women experience during pregnancy and how they can be satisfied safely.
1. Spicy food
Chilies and other spicy foods are very common cravings among pregnant women. One theory as to why is that pregnant women are constantly in need of cooling down. Our bodies cool down by sweating, which is what happens when we eat spicy food. As regular taste preferences can change during pregnancy, even women who usually avoid spicy foods can find themselves hankering for the hot stuff.
Satisfy safely: Spicy foods are generally safe for pregnant women to eat. However, be careful not to overdo it as they can cause heartburn and other digestive issues.
2. Ice cream
Aside from the already mentioned cooling down benefits, pregnant women often crave ice cream because it is sweet and sweet things are one of the most common cravings. It is also hypothesised that women crave ice cream because it is high in calcium.
Satisfy safely: If your ice cream consumption is veering into overly-indulgent territory, switch to low-fat frozen yoghurt as a satisfying alternative.
Continuing with the desire for something sweet, chocolate is a regular offender on the pregnancy craving list.
Satisfy safely: If your chocolate craving is demanding to be indulged, opt for quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. Dark chocolate is said to contain more flavonoids and often has less sugar than milk chocolate.
Another common culprit. It is speculated that pregnant women crave pickles because they are craving sodium, but this has not been confirmed.
Satisfy safely: If something salty is what you need, then pickles are certainly one of the healthier foods to choose. But of course, everything in moderation.
5. Red Meat
While a lot of women suffer from an iron deficiency during pregnancy, this does not necessarily explain why so many pregnant women have such a hunger for red meat. A study on pregnancy cravings suggests that pregnancy hormones are responsible, as they cause your sense of taste and smell to change.
Satisfy safely: A red meat craving can be beneficial as many pregnant women are iron deficient. Just ensure that you are eating it in moderation and getting the right amount of greens as well.
6. Peanut butter
Peanut butter cravings are likely caused by a need for comfort food. When pregnancy hormones flare, many women’s sense of taste is heightened and their cravings insist on being satisfied. This perhaps explains why so many women crave this comfort food when pregnant.
Satisfy safely: Get your peanut butter fix by spreading it on a piece of fruit. This will delight your sweet craving and, hopefully, will stop you from eating the whole jar with a spoon!
No, this is not a food.
It is well known that some pregnancy cravings can take a turn for the strange. Pica, a condition most commonly found in children but sometimes in pregnant women, is the craving of non-food substances. Dirt, burnt matches and laundry starch are typical pica cravings.
Satisfy safely: Eating non-food substances can be dangerous. It is important you tell your doctor if you experience this type of craving so they can try and figure out what the cause is.