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.