One of the strangest things about being pregnant has got to be the cravings. We’ve all heard crazy stories about women eating coal or sponges – but thankful these types of cravings aren’t too common. Studies show that 50-90% of pregnant women experience cravings for specific foods and these are usually high-sugar and high-fat foods, not nutrient-dense foods. But there is a theory that craving certain items can indicate a lack of a specific vitamin or mineral. So just for fun, let’s have a look at some pregnancy cravings and what they might mean.
Cravings can kick in right at the beginning of pregnancy – anytime between 2 and 12 weeks and it’s thought they are caused by hormonal changes or a heightened sense of taste and smell.
Related post: Sweet, Salty, sour or spicy? Which one are you?
Non-Food Pregnancy Cravings
Some nutritionists think that craving things like ice, soil or clay (a condition known as pica) are linked to an iron or zinc deficiency. However, there is not enough research about this to know if this is true or not. Pica, which comes from the Latin word for magpie (a bird known for eating almost anything), is a worldwide phenomenon – most commonly seen in children – but can occur for some people during pregnancy. If you are craving non-food substances during your pregnancy, you must seek advice from your midwife or doctor. Eating nonfood substances can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and may even cause a deficiency, which could then affect the nutrients your baby is able to absorb during pregnancy, leading to birth disorders.
Some pregnant women crave only certain types of chocolate, whether that be white, dark, or milk chocolate. Regardless of which type of chocolate you prefer, there is nothing out of the ordinary about chocolate cravings. Unlike some other pregnancy cravings, there is actually no definitive link between hormonal changes and chocolate cravings.
However, some practitioners believe that craving chocolate is a sign of a magnesium deficiency. While chocolate is inherently dangerous, eating too much of it is definitely not a good idea for your health! Try eating foods high in magnesium and see if this helps your cravings. Foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds and spinach are all high in magnesium.
It’s quite common to have an urge to eat red meat during pregnancy. Sometimes even people who typically avoid red meat or are vegetarian find themselves with this craving. It seems like it could be the body craving protein to ‘build a baby’ but is it really that simple! Surely if our bodies were so good at craving what we needed, we’d all be fit and healthy, living off broccoli and steamed rice!
Pickles are a really common pregnancy craving, and as they are high in sodium, you might think that’s what your body needs. Whilst high-sodium foods aren’t dangerous in moderation, you don’t want to be consuming them in vast quantities. Drink plenty of water if this is your craving and choose low-sodium brands where possible.
It seems that some pregnancy cravings may be cultural. Whilst pickles are a common craving in the West, the most common pregnancy craving in Japan is rice! Culture plays a strong role in our eating habits, as do the anecdotes and stories from friends and family.
There is no scientific evidence to support the theory that your pregnancy cravings mean anything but it’s fun to wonder why we have them.
I’d love to hear about your weird and wonderful pregnancy cravings – comment below.