From seaweed to Guinness: your pregnancy cravings explained

Pregnancy cravings affect 90% of mums-to-be. Some are normal and some are a bit more unusual!
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  • Feel like scoffing a whole jar of gherkins or even eating soil? You're not alone, pregnant women can get all sorts of weird and wonderful pregnancy cravings.

    Most recently, pop star Katy Perry – who revealed she was pregnant in a music video last week – opened up about her newfound cravings.

    During a live stream on Instagram, Katy said , “You want to talk cravings…I like, literally, never cared for spice, and now,  have to carry Tabasco sauce in my purse…some people have essential oils, I have Tabasco sauce…I’ve been eating the same burrito for weeks on end.”

    MORE: 10 pregnancy myths you’ve always wanted the answer to

    Unusual pregnancy cravings are a typical pregnancy symptom, but many experts believe we get these pregnancy cravings for odd tastes and smells because we’re lacking, or trying to build up, particular vitamins and nutrients in our blood in order to keep the baby safe in the womb.

    Some people think that certain pregnancy cravings can suggest that you’re expecting a boy or a girl, where as some people think this is just a pregnancy myth.

    We’ve taken a look at the top pregnancy cravings women can’t get enough of and the reasons behind them.

    Do you recognise any of these?

    Pregnancy cravings list

    These are some of the most common pregnancy cravings…

    • Seaweed
    • Red meat
    • Curry
    • Pickles
    • Dairy
    • Coal
    • Guinness
    • Chorizo
    • Broccoli
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Toothpaste
    • Chocolate
    • Baking Soda

    Pregnancy cravings meaning

    The craving: Seaweed

    The reason? Low on iodine

    Seaweed may seem like an unusual one, but many pregnant women have started to say they are craving it. This could be to do with a lack of iodine in the body. Seaweed is high in iodine, therefore can be a good source of this important nutrient during pregnancy – providing the levels needed for healthy fetal development. Edible seaweed includes green, red and brown seaweed, brown seaweed is extremely high in iodine however – so pregnant women should be cautious about eating too much of this version.

    The craving: Red meat

    The reason? Blood cell growth

    A lot of women have cravings for red meat while they’re pregnant. Red
    meat has high levels of the vitamin B6, which is important in the red
    blood cell formation of the baby. Homeopaths suggest eating 3 to
    4 2x2cm sized cubes of steak or pork every morning to speed up the level of blood cells being made. A great excuse for a bacon buttie!

    The craving: Curry

    The reason? Changing palates

    During pregnancy many women experience changes of tastes and curry is a common craving. Women’s fancy for a spicy curry could also be to do with our common association of it as a comfort food, or even its reputation to bring on labour!

    The craving: Pickles

    The reason? Low salt levels

    A craving for pickles is very normal in pregnant women so don’t worry if you’re reaching for the gherkins at 3 o’clock in the morning! This craving is usually because of low salt levels in the blood of the pregnant woman. Salt holds water in the body and is really important in keeping the fluids running from mother to the baby. Green Spanish olives are a particularly good way to satisfy your need for salt.

    The craving: Dairy (ice cream and yogurt)

    The reason? Low levels of calcium

    One of the most common pregnancy cravings is ice cream– in fact 50% of women say this is their main craving! When the baby is growing inside you it needs high levels of calcium to stay healthy and a lot of women can’t stomach milk and cheese during pregnancy. As a result, ice cream becomes a great way of getting calcium into the body.
    Some women find foods containing calcium so hard to eat during pregnancy that they end up taking Vitamin D or calcium tablets.

    The craving: Coal, mud, matches, Guinness and dust!

    The problem: Lack of iron

    Most of you will have heard of craving coal and possibly the smell of matches, but it might surprise you that some women actually eat dust during pregnancy. This is because dust is full of iron-rich minerals.

    During pregnancy, high iron levels in your blood often drop. Guinness, mud, matches and even chalk are all high in iron. A strong craving for them is the body’s way of trying to get more iron into its system – don’t be afraid to give in!

    The craving: Chorizo (or chorizo jam!)

    The reason? Salt deficiency

    Research carried out for Virgin Trains revealed that chorizo and chorizo jam has crept into the top 20 foods more commonly craved during pregnancy. There are some theories that women crave salt during pregnancy because you need your body to retain more water. Salt helps you retain fluids, so salty food like chorizo could help.

    The craving: Broccoli, peaches and pears

    The problem: Low folic acid levels

    During pregnancy, the desire for vegetables, particularly broccoli, and sugary fruit is often because of low folic acid levels. Folic acid can reduce the risk of having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord, so the pregnant body needs to keep very well loaded up – lots of pregnant mums take a folic acid tablet every day. Many women claim to have intense cravings for broccoli, which makes sense, as it is packed with folic acid goodness!

    The craving: Toothpaste and sponges

    The reason? Baby blues

    We all know that emotions and food are closely linked and this doesn’t change when you’re pregnant! A mum-to-be may crave a special food or object that reminds them of their childhood, for emotional reasons.

    Women who crave non-food items like coal during pregnancy could be suffering from a condition called Pica. This is the name used to describe cravings to eat household items such as toothpaste, laundry detergent, and even cigarette butts.

    The craving: Chocolate

    The reason? Low vitamin B levels

    Some experts believe that a craving for chocolate may be because of a shortage of B vitamins – these help control your metabolism. Chocolate is full of B vitamins and some women may need more essential fatty acids, like chocolate, in their diet.

    Sadly, this doesn’t mean you should splurge every day. Studies have shown that women get the same goodness that chocolate provides with flax seed oil, even though it isn’t as tasty!

    The craving: Baking Soda and laundry soap

    The reason? Digestive discomfort

    Some cravings come from the simple bodily instinct to fight off all pregnancy symptoms. Morning sickness may be the reason for Pica cravings such as the desire to eat baking soda and fabric detergent, because they are well known for being able to fight off dodgy tummy aches and pains.

    Be warned: Pica isn’t good for you. As the American Pregnancy Association says, ‘Eating non-food substances is potentially harmful to both you and your baby… The most important thing is to inform your health care provider.’

    So, basically, don’t give in and talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.

    How to handle pregnancy cravings

    The most important thing to do when it comes to keeping your pregnancy cravings happy is to make sure you choose healthy options that are close to the unhealthy foods you want to get stuck into!

    This is actually really easy. If you’re desperate for really salty and sweet food, just add them in small amounts to a normal diet that is nutritionally balanced. Leaving you to tuck in with a peaceful mind.

    Here are some healthy alternatives to pregnancy cravings that we’ve rustled up

    • Ice cream

    Opt for low-fat frozen yogurt. You can get this from all large supermarkets and it comes in lots of great flavours, which will meet your calcium needs without the added calorie count.

    • Chocolate

    Swap a chunk of dairy milk for a non-fat chocolate syrup drizzled on top of some fresh fruit.

    • Salty snacks

    Opt for salted popcorn or Italian breadsticks with low-fat houmous.

    • Eat breakfast!

    Making sure you have a healthy breakfast such as porridge and herbal tea can cut your cravings by up to 50%.

    Pregnancy cravings and gender

    While there are myths and old wives tales that suggest that particular pregnancy cravings may point towards the possible gender of your baby (for example, according to Chinese myth if you crave sweet foods you’re having a boy and if you’re craving sour foods you’re having a girl), there’s not actually any evidence to point towards this.

    So don’t go painting that nursery just yet!