Sudden food aversions and cravings are due to the effects of pregnancy hormones that can change the way food tastes and smells. Learn more about food cravings during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a number of physical and
emotional changes, and fluctuating hormones are usually to blame for random food
With another small human living inside of you, it’s no wonder you’re
You might crave high sugary foods, fried and fatty foods, or odd and
bizarre concoctions. Whatever the case, sudden food aversions and cravings are
due to the effects of pregnancy hormones that can change the way food tastes
How to deal with cravings?
It’s okay to spoil yourself once in a while as long as you continue to
maintain an overall healthy diet filled with nutritious food that’s good for
you and your baby.
Sugary, sweet and decadent foods are unhealthy and filled with lots of
artificial ingredients. When these cravings come about, it’s okay to give into them occasionally,
but try not to over-indulge as too much sugar can cause excessive weight gain,
dental problems or gestational diabetes.
Artificial spreads, salad dressings, chocolate, potato chips, biscuits,
salty food, pastries, ice-cream and fizzy drinks should be limited, as sugar
does not provide any other nutrients and can even increase the amount of
cholesterol in the blood.
Try to cut down on saturated fat and instead eat more
monounsaturated fats like olive oil, natural spreads – almond butter or natural
peanut butter and avocado.
How to manage food cravings?
Eating healthy should be a priority throughout your whole life, but
more so when you’re pregnant or preparing to become pregnant. Aim for a
balanced diet combining all the five food groups to help you feel good and give
your baby the essential nutrients they need.
Vegetables and legumes, grains,
dairy, meat, poultry, seafood, and fruit should all be included in your diet.
Eating healthy also helps control cravings that try to get in the way
of a well-balanced diet. Although indulging in your food cravings in moderation
is okay every now and then, don’t allow it to become a daily occurrence that
can impact your health as well as your baby’s.
Another way to manage food cravings is to keep track of weight,
particularly these days with rising rates of obesity and excessive weight gain.
On average, pregnant women will need to consume only 300 more calories per day
than they did prior to pregnancy.
Some people think “eating for two” is an
excuse to over-indulge, but there really is not much difference to food amounts
than before pregnancy.
Exercise has a bit of a bad reputation among pregnant women, but light
exercise is not only good for your body, but for your mind as well.
provides numerous benefits during pregnancy, including the possibility to kick
food cravings to the curb, as keeping fit will keep your body and digestive
system running smoothly.
The cycle of exercising and eating right can become a
habit and those extra food cravings may disappear, particularly because you’ll
be distracted while your body is producing endorphins, which cause you to feel
happy. Mental health plays a role in food consumption, which is why it’s easy
to overeat if you’re feeling unmotivated, sluggish or emotional.
Like mentioned above, intense food cravings or overeating can be a sign
of overwhelming stress during pregnancy. It’s not a bad idea to seek support if
you are having difficulty with this, as there may be an underlying issue or
pre-existing mental health condition that you are already aware of.
doctor for further information.
When to expect food cravings during pregnancy?
For most women, food cravings
usually begin during the first trimester and get stronger in the second
trimester, but start to decline in the third. This may be because the body is
working extra hard, has another person to feed, hormones are rapidly changing
or the mere comfort that food can bring.
Research shows that sour tastes are more likely to occur during the second and third trimester,
which explains the classic and stereotypical pickle craving. The same is said
about fruit, as it’s also another common pregnancy craving due to the sweet and
However, in the first trimester, an intensified perception of
bitterness is apparent, with scientists suspecting women are able to isolate
bitter tastes as a protective mechanism, warning them against consuming things
like alcohol during the critical stages of foetal development. These bitter
aversions apparently reduce by the third trimester, when the significant phase
of the baby’s development has ended.
There have been instances where women still crave foods after their
baby is born, but these are generally mild and may only include one type of food
every few days, instead of every few hours.
Why do pregnant women crave food?
According to research, approximately 50 to 90 per cent of women have
some kind of specific food craving during their pregnancy.
still aren’t 100 per cent sure why this happens, especially when it comes to
specific tastes, textures or flavour combinations like salty and sweet.Some say
that food cravings may be your body’s way of obtaining essential vitamins and
nutrients during pregnancy.
This may explain why pregnant women have strong
urges to eat odd combinations like pickles dipped in peanut butter – the sodium
and protein of both ingredients could play a role here.
Research also suggests that a nutritional deficiency could be to blame
for the influx of food cravings during pregnancy. Anemia is common among
pregnant women and is the most common cause, accounting for 75 to 95 per cent
of all cases.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women should
increase their iron intake from 18mg per day to 27 mg per day to cater to their
growing baby’s needs, and to store extra iron for any blood loss that can happen
during child birth. However, if you’re pregnant, make sure not to consume more
than 45 mg of iron each day.
Another reason for food cravings could be the amino acid neuropeptide Y
(NPY), that’s produced by neurons in the sympathetic nervous system to increase
According to a study, NPY production increases during pregnancy
causing women to want to eat a number of different foods that might not sound
so appetising together. NPY exists in all of our bodies and travels from the
hypothalamus to various parts of the brain to increase our appetite. But,
pregnant women or overweight people have high amounts of NPY.
In addition, chocolate for example is a food item that is significantly
popular among pregnant women or even during the menstrual cycle. This may be
because of the mood-altering endogenous compounds such as phenylethylamine,
tyramine, serotonin, tryptophan and magnesium. Other foods like cheese and
dairy also include these compounds but aren’t as appealing as chocolate
You may have heard about pregnant women craving weird and odd things
that aren’t food. This is known as Pica - the practice of craving substances
such as dirt or chalk. It’s bizarre, but it does happen.
There’s not much
research to show why these non-food cravings occur, but it has been said that
it may be because of a connection to an iron deficiency or the body’s attempt to
obtain crucial vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food
Common Pica cravings
Some common non-food substances that are craved during pregnancy
include dirt, clay and laundry powder. Others include burnt matches, cigarette ashes,
stones, charcoal, mothballs, soap, sand, plaster and baking soda, among others.
Pica can be harmful to a baby for obvious reasons.
substances can interfere with the nutrient absorption of healthy foods and can
actually cause a deficiency or further damage to an unborn baby.
are a concern because the non-food substances usually include toxic chemicals
and materials that can also impact the woman’s health at the same time. If you
are having these cravings, it’s best to speak to your doctor as soon as
possible to avoid consuming anything dangerous.
Overall, it’s clear that women will crave a variety of food while
pregnant, some that may seem odd or bizarre. It’s important to maintain a
healthy diet and to control intense cravings for foods that are high in sugar and
fat via a variety of methods like exercise, portion control or emotional
support if that’s something you think you may need.
In the meantime, be sure to
check that all your vitamin and nutrient levels are normal and aren’t
contributing to any strange food urges.
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