Pregnancy cravings are one of those mysterious areas of the whole process that are famous (or rather infamous). Maybe they’re over hyped or maybe they’re aptly hyped (pickles and chocolate? Watermelon and beef-jerky?).
Around the world, pregnant women are known to require strange amounts of single food cravings — foods they don’t normally enjoy or the weirdest combinations of different ingredients. Internationally, it’s just accepted that pregnant women like to eat lots of weird stuff and as long as it’s safe, it’s generally okay. The stories are fun to hear and some of our mother’s cravings may even seem to have affected our taste preferences now as adults, but we have to wonder if there's more than what meets the eye. Are pregnancy cravings the body’s way of demanding additional nutrition for the little one growing inside? Are they totally random and up to chance, never to be repeated in another pregnancy? Are they based on the gender of the baby? Or are they more emotional and psychological than anything empirical and scientific? There’s a wide range of odd cravings, but the most common ones generally have known (or thoroughly hypothesized) causes. And the other ones… well, I’ll get to that below
Most of these cravings will be stuff that’s actually edible. You know, actual foods. But for some pregnant women, they have the totally peculiar urge to eat sand. It’s fine to eat, as long as they don’t head over to the nearest sandbox with a big old soup spoon. Some women may even seek out powdery foods that mimic the texture of sand to get their fix. However, the body might be saying something else, even if it’s in a very weird way.
The desire to eat inedible things, or pica, is usually the body’s way of expressing an iron deficiency, according to those on Reddit. Skip the sand and go for some spinach.
Sure, every day of our lives might be one big chocolate craving but things get way more intense during pregnancy. Whatever your craving already was, multiply that. The reasons a pregnant woman craves chocolate are highly disputed — although some say it's because the body craves magnesium or fiber, others argue there’s far more nutritious foods that the body would express this desire for. She Knows claims chocolate is so desirable because we unconsciously think of it as a forbidden food, and that only increases our want for it. It’s not as healthy as other cravings (has anyone ever craved kale?), but it’s fine in moderation.
And now for a snack that’s not okay — even in moderation. Cravings for dirt fall under the same umbrella category as cravings for sand. Healthline explains this form of pica targets what seems like a nutrient-rich source (I’m hesitant to call dirt an actual food source, since… you know, we’re not worms) as your body’s way of demanding more iron.
Considering women’s bodies don’t naturally produce iron and then lose large amounts of iron every month, it’s not at all surprising that this is such a common issue. That said, skip the awkward scene at the park and make a mud pie. Or eat something with actual protein.
17 Salty Snacks
Sure, you don’t need to be pregnant to crave potato chips, pretzels, or any number of salt-rich foods, but that desire might intensify in pregnancy. This could be due to a number of things; craving salty snacks is another way for the body to express an iron deficiency, also known as anemia, which is extremely common (although serious) in women. It’s also possible that with pregnancy, your taste buds have altered and now want to be surprised by especially strong foods. In other words, Healthline says now that you’re pregnant: salt is saltier. I know, what a strange blessing that’s also totally a curse. And keep the water nearby.
We all know there’s a myriad reasons to crave cheese. For one thing, it’s delicious and comforting in all kinds of forms. It’s also one-third of the super group known as pizza, which is definitely its own food group. Honestly, I strongly believe cheese is one food group, and stretchy, melty cheese is a whole different one. However, on a more serious note, a craving for large amounts of cheese might be your body telling you it’s lacking in calcium. While cheese is a good source of calcium, it’s also extremely fatty. In addition to that impromptu charcuterie plate you made yourself, throw in a calcium tablet to avoid unnecessary fat.
15 Spicy Foods
This is one of those foods some women might totally avoid before (and after) their pregnancy. So much so that they just can’t resist it for those strange nine months. You can boil this craving down to the vague, unsatisfying answer that it’s "what the baby wants” or consider that spicy foods could stabilize body temperature. She Knows notes many pregnant women report their body temperature fluctuating dramatically, so it makes sense that the body would be proactive in demanding some stability. Since spicy foods cause you to sweat, they actually lower your body temperature. Now that might sound weird, but there are much weirder parts of pregnancy than that.
One of the more beneficial, productive cravings is for fresh fruit. Sure, fruits are extremely high in natural sugars so there’s definitely a point of diminishing returns to chowing down on them. However, a craving for blueberries isn’t exactly the same as a craving for like, beef jerky dipped in milk. (Gross mental image, sorry.) Anyway, She Knows notes this might be the body’s way of preparing for a healthy baby or a craving for fresh produce might be because the body demands more of a specific vitamin. Considering the slew of vitamins fruits are laden with, that could be a number of different vitamins.
13 Red Meat
One of the weirder areas of pregnancy cravings—especially for women who avoid or totally abstain from meat—comes with red meat. There are just as many stories of vegetarians and vegans craving hamburgers as there are steak-and-potatoes ladies not being able to stomach the sight alone of deli meats. However, Nine Naturals says a craving for meat (especially if you don’t usually eat red meat) usually signifies the body’s need for additional protein. If eating meat doesn’t bother you — go for it, you earned that cheeseburger. If you’re more stringent about avoiding it, seek out a protein-rich veggie burger and you’ll probably feel much better.
No one really thinks of lemons as a snack, except for some very intense old men and a few pregnant women. Pregnant women are famous for squeezing inordinate amounts of lemon into their water or just straight up sucking on a few. While this is unusual to most, a craving for these intense little yellow fruits usually has to do with changing taste buds, per She Knows. Although some taste buds become more sensitive, some become less so. So salty foods may become saltier to pregnant women, while bitter or sour food becomes less so. Or the flavor of the lemon might intensify and the mom-to-be is just into that.
11 Sugary Sweets
It’s not exactly as unhealthy as sand, dirt, or newspaper but no one really wants to crave sweets. There’s no nutritional benefit, even if they’re super fun to eat. Some people even think eating lots of sugar during pregnancy makes a child more prone to junk food, and as a result, less healthy. However, Nine Naturals claims most cravings for sugary sweets (whether that’s candy, baked goods, or even just spoonfuls of sugar) are thought to correspond to higher hormonal levels. Basically, when the hormones go crazy, everything else follows. So keep some donuts on hand — this might be a bumpy, wild ride. If you can, keep it in moderation.
10 Childhood Favorites
There’s plenty of excuses for this one. For one thing, most foods that were childhood favorites are high in calories and fat, so that's the body’s way of comforting itself. But in addition to those physiological reasons to fry up a grilled cheese, these tastes also probably bring back very deep, personal memories. It’s a way of bonding with yourself.
You know how preparing a nursery is seen as nesting? Nine Naturals explains how eating these treats can be a way of nesting emotionally. Oh, and then the third reason is the most obvious — they taste great. That’s why you liked them as a kid when you didn’t care about folic acid or low calories or whatever. Duh.
Pickles might be the most classic, universal pregnancy craving. It could be that these weird little vegetables are refreshing and the crunch is extremely satisfying. But that’s why people eat pickles regardless of pregnancy. So why do pregnant women—especially women who typically avoid pickles—go for them so strongly? It could be, yet again, those heightened pregnancy senses or a lack of sodium according to She Knows. Sour foods may be even more sour than usual (or less sour, depending) and foods that were once too intense are now just right. While you’re whipping up that grilled cheese you remember so fondly, make sure it to accompany it with a nice, cold pickle. Oh and chips, of course.
8 Fresh Juice
Who doesn’t love a nice juice on a hot day? However, if you’re downing an unending amount of orange juice or even the weirder stuff, like pineapple juice, you might be wondering why. Since many pregnant women experience heat, fresh juice could be one way to lower your body temperature and stay refreshed. It’s also a great source of vitamins (like fresh fruit) and a surprisingly sugary beverage which is always a weakness of the body. Oh and also, it tastes great. You can’t indulge in that mimosa with everyone else so sure, keep the apple juice flowing next brunch.
7 Olive Oil
It’s pretty niche but there’s plenty of stories out there about expecting mothers drinking straight up olive oil. Yup, not just drizzling it on a nice salad or on top of a cheese plate with some crackers. Drinking olive oil like it’s a Big Gulp. It’s intense, but so is pregnancy. This could have to do with plenty of stuff, though. Olive oil is extremely rich in healthy fats and oils, like a liquid prenatal vitamin. Also, if we're going to get down to it, it’ll definitely aid in constipation. Plenty of pregnant women get backed up and while not all will, thinking of sticking a straw in their EVOO might like it…
6 Uncooked Canned Corn
This is definitely a niche craving. If you’ve gone through multiple pregnancies and never craved corn from the can, congratulations and best of luck to you. It’s not that eating corn by the spoon is necessarily unhealthy (besides the empty calories). Well, and the ridiculous potty-break you’re on track to have. It’s more just a very strange experience to crave such a vegetable as a meal. Anyway, random cravings like this are thought to be the body seeking out additional calories, according to BuzzFeed. If you really feel like a weirdo digging into corn, maybe have a sandwich first and see if those cravings go away.
5 The Really Random Weird Stuff
Look, you might want to draw those window shades and lock the doors. It’s time to dig into some bacon and Jell-O or a Twix and ribeye sandwich. What’s with this class of pregnancy cravings all on their own? It’s thought that pregnancy increases the synthesis of Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a potent appetite stimulant. But then why not crave foods that actually make sense and are filling? Healthline says science doesn’t have an explanation for that yet. The day science can explain drinking brine en masse, we’ll finally have figured out all (or most) of the secrets of pregnancy.
Chewing ice is like a secret national past time. You don’t need to be pregnant to do it and you might not even talk about it. Heck, you might not even realize you’re doing it. If you’re craving ice to chew, this could be because your mouth and tongue are inflamed. Ice helps the inflammation, but it doesn’t affect the underlying cause. She Knows says an inflamed mouth and tongue can be a symptom of anemia. As we’ve gone over, anemia is super common amongst women but still needs to be treated. Have your ice as a side to a burger and you’ll probably feel better for longer.
3 Super-Bitter Foods
Bitter foods have a thankless job. As we expect our fruits to be more like candy, farmers and scientists face making fruits sweeter. Many fruits, like grapefruit, have been engineered to be “de-bittered,” but chemicals in the bitterness are thought to be beneficial as anti-inflammatories and possess other health benefits. So why are you suddenly craving the non-sweet foods? It could be that your taste buds are changing and are more or less sensitive to bitter foods. It could be that your body is looking out for you and is tricking you into getting the good stuff to your baby.
2 Leafy Greens
Honestly, a craving for spinach and arugula sounds like a strange gift. You want to binge on green juices and salads? Um, go for it. That’s a great problem to have. However, food alone might not do it. Your body may be calling out for magnesium, and if you’re in need of concentrated levels of magnesium, then a supplement may be the best way to go, according to Nine Naturals. Still go in on that salad — you already whipped it up and munching on leafy greens from the bag is kind of… well, legendary. You’re definitely going to brag about that one to your kid when they won’t finish their sprouts.
It’s already strange how people—non-pregnant people—crave vinegar. Sure, it’s totally nasty on its own, but then you add a little olive oil and it’s perfect. It’s a magical acid — add a little alchemy and it goes from gross to delicious. Anyway, some pregnant women report not needing, or wanting, that complementary ingredient (whatever it may be) to tame the burn of vinegar. Some just drink it. Sure, that’s extreme but there’s an explanation for this. Besides changing taste buds and a hormonal drive to eat, vinegar helps with nausea. Whether women seek it out consciously or not, this could help with morning sickness. Or it makes their breath smell worse- jury’s undecided.