Author: Stephen David Frausto, M.D., FACOG
While the precise cause of pregnancy cravings is not entirely known, many medical researchers and physicians tend to agree that these food cravings develop in the following way:
- The body is not getting enough of a certain vitamin, mineral, or nutrient.
- In order to fulfill the need, the body “craves” foods that taste buds associate with those vitamins, minerals, or nutrients. This why a need for fat (which is important during pregnancy) might manifest itself as a craving for chocolate cake. A need for sodium might turn up in a french fry craving. A need for calcium might take on the form of a cheesy mozzarella pizza, etc.
This is a popular theory about the cause of pregnancy cravings; but, again, a verified scientific cause of pregnancy cravings has not yet been presented.
Dealing With Pregnancy Cravings in a Healthy Way
Of course, giving into every craving isn’t necessarily the healthiest approach. In fact, if you are prone to excessive weight gain and/or have gestational diabetes, then dealing with pregnancy cravings in a healthy manner is especially important.
Instead of giving into the unhealthy foods that your body wants, try experimenting with substitutes. As I mentioned above, that craving for pizza might actually be your body asking for more calcium. Instead, try healthier sources of calcium like almonds or tofu-based snack foods. Try meeting that craving for french fries with a sodium-rich can of vegetable soup.
One Warning About Pregnancy Cravings: Pica
Whether you combat pregnancy cravings with healthy alternatives or give in to the occasional fast food burger, there are usually more important pregnancy-related issues occupying your mind. Though dealing with pregnancy cravings is important, it’s usually not the number one priority in pregnancy.
That being said, there is one type of pregnancy craving that should absolutely be avoided: pica. According to the Random House Dictionary, pica is “an abnormal appetite or craving for substances that are not fit to eat, as chalk or clay, common in malnutrition, pregnancy, etc.”
It should probably go without saying that a craving for dirt or silly putty is unhealthy, but pica cravings are more common than you might think. Eating non-food items can have serious mental (and physical) developmental consequences for your baby. If you struggle with pica, please let your physician know so that he/she may help you better deal with pregnancy cravings.
Have more questions about dealing with pregnancy cravings? Call Arizona Associates for Women’s Health at 480-257-2700. Or, schedule an appointment online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.