What do pregnancy cravings actually mean?
Some pregnant ladies crave salty snacks. And some desire foods that are sweet. Other future mums love the kick of something spicy, and then there are those who long for tart, sour foods. The edible possibilities are endless during this time, really.
Cravings are experienced by around 80 per cent of all pregnant women, but what do they actually mean? And why do they occur? Those are two very good questions…
THE ROLE HORMONES PLAY IN PREGNANCY CRAVINGS
Women go through extreme hormonal changes during pregnancy; changes that often impact on their sense of taste and smell. This is especially noticeable in the first trimester, where a woman’s changing hormones can turn her off foods she previously loved, and some foods may even cause her to feel nausea.
However, whether this change in hormone levels is the reason behind pregnancy cravings is yet to be confirmed. In fact, the answer depends on who you pose the question to. Some nutritionists, doctors and paediatricians will say certain cravings that occur during the peak hormonal change mean something, while others say it’s just an excuse to indulge.
WHAT CERTAIN PREGNANCY CRAVINGS MEAN
Most experts believe there isn’t a direct link between a pregnant woman’s craving and what her body needs. If there were, she’d be ditching the chocolate and ice cream snacks for fruit and vegetables, which actually provide the body with valuable nutrients it needs during this period.
Some experts do believe a craving for chocolate means you’re lacking B vitamins. Others say a need for red meat is your body’s way of saying it needs protein. But that pickle covered in Ice Magic or Oreos dipped in orange juice? Who knows? And that’s precisely why lots of professionals in the field refuse to link cravings with ingredients the body needs during pregnancy.
The condition of pica, however, is one craving that experts can agree on. (Pica refers to the craving for ice and other odd non-food substances such as chalk, dirt and cigarette butts.) Those who suffer this type of craving are generally found to have an iron deficiency, despite these items not being sources of actual iron.
WHY YOU NEED TO BE WARY OF PREGNANCY CRAVINGS
Yes, you can pay attention to your pregnancy craving and nibble on those strawberries sprinkled with loads of Parmesan cheese, but one must be careful that cravings do not override good nutrition. Try to swap unhealthy cravings for a healthier alternative (think low-fat frozen yoghurt instead of full-fat ice-cream), and ensure you’re eating a balanced diet filled with all the required nutrients, including protein, folate, iron and calcium. Ensuring you always eat breakfast, exercise regularly and rest up when you need it will also prevent the need to reach for junk food.
Oh, and eating for two doesn’t always mean doubling your food intake, either – it simply means striving for adequate nutrients for the both of you.
Have you suffered from pregnancy cravings? If so, what were they? And do you believe pregnancy cravings mean something, or are they just an excuse to indulge?