There are cravings — and then there are pregnancy cravings.
Yes, it sometimes seems like pregnancy cravings are dramatized and blown out of proportion for entertainment value in movies and commercials, but the reality is these cravings are no joke — and they really hit 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women. That deep, insatiable hunger is very real, and there are biological reasons it hits. So, the next time you wake up with a burning desire for a Big Mac or a chocolate Frosty, give in. Because... science.
Here are some explanations for those insane hankerings for random things like raw meat and lemons.
Pregnant women love to chew on ice. Seems strange since it's not really a food and doesn't seem in any way satisfying to those of us not with child, but for some reason pregnant women just can't get enough. Those with anemia are more likely to be seen chewing on ice since it can relieve inflammation of the mouth and tongue (a common symptom of anemia).
Chocolate — or any sweet, for that matter — is something pregnant women can't get enough of. According to a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, women likely crave chocolate because it's considered "forbidden" — the more off-limits a food is, the more we'll want it.
Also, an old wives' tale states that if you crave sweets, it means you're carrying a girl.
Tip: If you're worried about indulging too much, satisfy your chocolate craving by drizzling low-fat chocolate syrup onto fresh fruit.
3. Spicy foods
Spicy foods, such as curry or hot red peppers, are yet another common craving among pregnant women. One reason women may crave spicy foods is because hot foods make the body sweat, which cools off the body. If you're currently expecting, then you know it's almost impossible to stay cool. Try adding some spice to your next meal to see if it helps cool you down.
However, according to licensed acupuncturist Kristen N. Burris in Romper, "According to traditional Chinese medicine wisdom and proven theories from thousands of years and billions of women, pregnant women crave spicy foods when their immune system is weakened."
Women who crave pickles could be low in sodium, but there's no real proof of this. Some like the crunch, some like the vinegar, and some like the refreshing taste. Whatever it is, pickle cravings are nothing to be too concerned about. They're low in calories, easy to get and inexpensive.
5. Potato chips
Potato chips, like pickles, are loaded with salt. Again, you could be low in sodium, but more than likely you're just desiring something salty and crunchy, and potato chips are what comes to mind. Though, if your body is truly craving salt, stick to pickles.
Pregnant women don't crave just junk food (surprisingly!) — they crave fruit as well. Craving fruit might indicate low blood sugar.
While not supported, you (and your body) might simply want a healthy baby, so sometimes your body needs extra-healthy foods to make sure that happens. Fruits, such as watermelons and grapes, are cool and refreshing, all while providing your body and baby with a boost of vitamin C.
It's not unheard of to see a pregnant woman eating a straight lemon or adding a ton of it to their water. Pregnant women crave sour foods. The reason? Your taste buds change, and typically, you like to "shock" them with super-sour or super-spicy foods.
8. Ice cream
According to the International Foundation for Mother & Child Health, cravings for ice cream or other dairy products are a sign of low levels of calcium. Plus, ice cream is sweet, it cools you off, and it's rich and creamy. With so many flavors to choose from, a pregnant woman could literally spend hours in the ice cream aisle. For a healthier version, buy low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt and top it with fresh fruit. You might kill two cravings in one sitting.
Next: Sugary sweets
A version of this article was originally published in February 2013.
9. Sugary sweets
A craving for sweets and candy is one of the most commonly reported among pregnant women. This can sometimes be a sign of gestational diabetes, but much like chocolate, most of the time it can be chalked up to psychology. Because you associate sweets as a "forbidden" treat, you crave it. Try eating fruit or having a glass of freshly squeezed juice to satisfy your craving — or just stick to one small piece of candy a day.
10. Beans & greens
Some women crave healthier foods, like leafy green veggies, legumes and whole grains that provide the body with tons of essential nutrients, including magnesium and fiber. That said, it could be a shortage of magnesium. Feel free to indulge in these foods as often as you like.
11. Red meat
Red meat is full of protein and iron, which many pregnant women crave. The key here is to skip the fattier cuts like rib-eye and go for round or sirloin cuts. Or choose your favorite lean ground beef to make burgers.
It's not uncommon for women to crave salty foods as their pregnancy goes on. An increase in blood volume can change your dietary need for sodium. If salt is what you crave, then stick to the shaker — the sodium in processed foods can far exceed the needs of even a pregnant woman and often contain extra unsavory ingredients.
Sometimes a pickle craving escalates, and it turns out vinegar is what a pregnant woman really want. Some women lust after sauerkraut or salt-and-vinegar chips, while some even admit to drinking the stuff straight up. Much like eating lemons, this "shocks" your taste buds; plus, it's believed vinegar can help with nausea. Try unfiltered apple cider vinegar, which you can mix with seltzer for a refreshing drink — just watch out for heartburn.
Milk, yogurt and cheese, oh my! Lots of pregnant women get the urge to eat dairy after their first trimester (when dairy can cause some tummy trouble). Much like ice cream, this could be a sign of low levels of calcium. Calcium- and protein-rich, low-fat dairy foods — like string or cottage cheese, skim milk and Greek yogurt — are great choices to satisfy these cravings.
15. Crazy combinations
Ever heard of moms-to-be dunking pickles into peanut butter or putting olives in their ice cream? No one knows exactly why some women crave unusual combinations of food when they're pregnant, but according a study conducted by Pregnacare, this could be a result of searching for foods they ate as a child, so it leaves them feeling cared for. Don't worry if what you're craving is a bit odd; the study also found that wanting to eat weird food combinations is totally normal.
16. Comfort food
If you find yourself craving your mom's mac and cheese or a dish you have at Christmas every year, it might not have any relation to your body's physical needs. Pregnancy can be tough, and it's totally normal to crave foods that make you think of cozy, calmer times. Just like craving unusual combinations, craving comfort foods is our body's way of reminiscing. So don't stress — let yourself indulge in an old favorite if it makes you feel better.
17. Nonedible food
If you're craving chalk, dirt or any other nonfood item, then go see your doctor. Pica — a condition in which one craves and eats nonfood items — can be dangerous, especially if you give in to the craving. Pica can indicate an iron deficiency, but even if that's not the case, you should consult your physician to figure out what your body is trying to tell you.