Pregnancy: Cravings and Nutrients Guide
Pregnancy is, of course, one of the most exciting transformations that a woman and her close family can go through. But, as with any drastic bodily change, there are some aspects of the pregnancy journey that can come as quite a shock, or even seemingly defy logic.
Perhaps the most well-known of these changes is the infamous pregnancy cravings, with many expecting mothers suddenly turning their appetites to all manner of weird and wacky flavor combinations.
From pickles and ice cream, to sausages and jelly, there’s no end to the oddness when it comes to these hunger-based urges, so today we’ll be taking a look at just what compels expecting mothers to crave certain dishes and distinct flavors in our in-depth pregnancy cravings and nutrients guide.
What causes pregnancy cravings?
Whilst experts are still mostly unsure as to exactly why pregnancy causes changes in your appetite, we do know that as many as 50% – 90% of pregnant women in the US experience food cravings at some point during their pregnancy.
Theories range from hormonal changes, which have been shown to affect the sensory experience of food, to changes in an expecting mother’s nutritional needs now that she’s eating for two.
Frequently, pregnant people experience an increased need for nutrients like calcium and iron, explaining the common cravings for ice cream and red meats, but what about the stranger urges we often hear of?
Cravings and nutrients
Often the foods we crave during pregnancy are a good indicator of the nutrients our bodies are lacking. A good example of this is the common craving for pickles, which can be an indicator that your sodium levels could do with a boost. If pickles is something you’re craving, there are some wonderful pickle-flavored healthy snacks to choose from, such as dill pickle popcorn and pickle almonds.
Cravings for fruits are often a sign that you’re low on vitamins, though you should always opt for fresh fruits rather than canned to help cut back on refined sugars. Other great examples are leafy greens, nuts and seeds, all of which could be a sign you’re in need of folic acid, or seafood and liver which contain high levels of iodine, another essential nutrient for your baby’s development.
What should I be eating?
Regardless of your cravings, there are a number of foods that have been shown to provide ample amounts of the essential nutrients required during your baby’s growth and development. By making sure that you’re topped up on these foods, you could very well see some of those wilder cravings disappear altogether.
Firstly, it’s incredibly important to drink between 8 – 12 cups of water (64 – 96 ounces) per day during your pregnancy, as this will aid digestion, help form amniotic fluid around your baby and assist in your body’s circulation of the important nutrients you’re gaining from all these essential foods.
Fruits high in vitamin C, iron and calcium are a must, with cherries being a great example, in fact it’s possible to meet both your daily vitamin and water intake needs by drinking a few natural flavored waters throughout the day.
Dairy products like yogurt are a great source of calcium, though chia seeds, almonds and kale are all fantastic non-dairy alternatives, and legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans will have you covered in terms of fiber, protein, iron and folate.
The 6 key nutrients during pregnancy
Whilst the exact levels and volumes needed of the foods we’ve mentioned will likely differ between individuals, experts are in agreement that there are 6 key nutrients required during all pregnancies to keep both mother and baby happy and healthy.
These nutrients are:
- Folic acid – a B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects
- Iron – to create hemoglobin, a protein used to carry oxygen around the body
- Calcium – to aid in the growth of your baby’s bones, teeth, heart and muscles
- Vitamin D – promotes calcium absorption and boosts your immune system
- DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with growth and development
- Iodine – helps your body to use and store energy
It’s recommended that you take on these nutrients via foods rather than supplements where possible, as the amounts needed tend to be fairly small during the average pregnancy, though keeping a good dialogue with your doctor will help to clear up exactly how much of each nutrient will be beneficial to you.
In conclusion, there’s still a lot we don’t know about pregnancy cravings, but for the most part these strange changes in our appetites can be used as a signpost to the nutrients our bodies are in need of. By making sure that we’re drinking enough water, and are enjoying a varied diet filled with the vitamins and minerals covered above, most of the stranger cravings should be kept at bay. Though there’s still nothing stopping you from picking up the pickles (in moderation) if it does bring you some much needed comfort.