Food Cravings: What they meanIt is a known fact that during pregnancy women have cravings for specific foods. Some pregnant women crave for chocolate, spicy foods, ice-cream, pizzas and comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, cereals, and sandwiches. Other women crave for non-food items, such as clay and cornstarch. What causes these food cravings is still a very debatable topic and even the experts have difficultly agreeing about what causes them. While hard facts about food cravings can be a little difficult to pin down, there have been a few studies done over the years about food cravings and food aversions during pregnancy.

Says Dr. Himanshu Batra that food craving might be the result of extreme hormonal changes that women go through during pregnancy. Because of this they can have a powerful impact on taste and smell. They can either crave for a specific food or be averse to it. But the bottom line, says Dr Batra, is that no one really knows for sure.

Study suggests that women are more likely to crave sweet foods during the second trimester than at any other point in pregnancy. Pregnant women normally crave for ice cream, sweets, candy (especially chocolate), fruit and fish. Some believe that pregnant women develop food cravings because they think they're supposed to develop them. They might have heard and read or seen their sister’s, friends develop food cravings and thus they psychologically hold it as the important factor.

Sometimes pregnant vegetarian women find they get uncontrollable cravings for meat. This might be a signal that you body needs protein but there is no such explanation. Some women give in to the craving over the short-term and revert to strict vegetarianism after the birth. Others believe that including fish or pulses and grains in their diet boosts their protein intake. Including more eggs, milk or cheese in your diet is another way to provide good protein.

Some women crave for chocolate. Dark chocolate can be a useful source of magnesium and iron. So if you are craving chocolate, you may be slightly anaemic. Less sugary sources of these minerals include nuts, seeds, dates and figs (for magnesium) and red meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and oatmeal (for iron). Also it is believed that eating chocolate may help a woman who is tired or depressed to feel better.

Dr Batra says that whatever food craving you have, it is important that pregnant women keep a check on their cravings. Craving for healthy food is good but you definitely have to stop yourself from craving for all the un-healthy food. Also some women crave for non-food items, such as clay and cornstarch. The craving and eating of non-food items is known as pica. Consumption of things that are not food can be dangerous to both you and your baby. If you have urges to eat non-food items, notify your doctor.

Dr Batra says. "A healthful diet should be one that meets your nutritional and your emotional needs, as well as your preferences." He recommends that pregnant women should humour their cravings rather than fight them by, substituting non-fat frozen yogurt for ice cream.

Other ways to curb unhealthy cravings:

  • Eat breakfast every day (skipping breakfast can make cravings worse)
  • Get plenty of exercise, and make sure you have lots of emotional support.
  • Relax and don’t let depression near you.

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