Food cravings are a common phenomenon during pregnancy, as nearly 85 percent of pregnant women experience them. However, women need to pay attention to what pregnancy food they consume, as certain products may harm the fetus.
What do Women Crave?
Cravings are not the same for all women, but a certain pattern can be observed. Surveys indicate that:
- 40 percent of pregnant women want something sweet
- 33 percent feel the need for something salty
- 17 percent want spicy food
- 10 percent crave citrus fruits, green apples, and other sour foods
What Causes the Food Cravings?
It is believed that food cravings are caused by hormones, but the certain cause remains unknown. The hormonal changes that appear during pregnancy affect taste and smell, as they also do during menopause. It is difficult to pinpoint the cause because the cravings differ from one person to another, while the effects caused by pregnancy are mostly the same.
What do Food Cravings Mean?
Nutritionists and healthcare practitioners believe that there may be a connection between cravings and certain deficiencies in the body. Sometimes, though, this connection is unexplained, because the craved food cannot provide the deficient vitamin or mineral.
- Ice craving seems to indicate iron deficiency, even though this item does not contain iron
- Chocolate craving is supposedly connected to deficiency of vitamins from the B complex
- Red meat indicates a lack of proteins in the pregnancy diet
- Peach craving is related to beta carotene deficiency
Cravings disappear when taking flax oil, but this is most common in women who need more essential fatty acids.
What to do About Pregnancy Cravings
Pregnant women need to find a balance between their emotional needs and healthy pregnancy foods. Adjusting the pregnancy diet is necessary sometimes, as not all the craved foods are good. For instance, ice cream, one of the most common craved foods, can be successfully replaced with nonfat frozen yoghurt.
Besides altering certain pregnancy recipes, women must also take care of their eating habits. Skipping breakfast, for example, can cause the cravings to become more serious.
What Pregnancy Food to Avoid
Junk food should be avoided at all times, especially during pregnancy. This type of food lacks the nutrients that are needed by the baby. Fortunately, many of the unhealthy foods and beverages that are craved during pregnancy have substituents:
- Cola can be swapped with mineral water combined with fruit juice
- Doughnuts can be substituted with a whole grain bagel with jam
- Potato chips should be changed with homemade popcorn or pretzels
- Chocolate is usually replaced with hot cocoa made with non-fat milk
- Canned fruit needs to be substituted with fresh fruit in order to assure a greater amount of nutrients
Most of the products can also be used in pregnancy recipes in order to replace the unhealthy equivalents. As pregnancy nutrition affects the development of the baby, making such changes can only be beneficial. However, this does not mean that the pregnancy cravings need to be ignored completely when experienced. Women may indulge themselves as long as the craved foods do not pose a threat to their or their baby's health.