Have you ever out of the blue craved something that you’ve never liked before during pregnancy? I know I have and there’s medical science behind why. I was that girl walking around an amusement park with a pickle on a stick in one hand and popcorn in the other, and did I mention they had a truck load of mustard on top of both! Let’s dive into the bizarre world of pregnancy cravings. What is a pregnancy craving, why do cravings exist while your pregnant, and most importantly what is your body trying to tell you. You’ll also get the inside tips as to what you should be eating in this 30 minute snack size podcast Pregnancy Pukeology Episode 49: Why do pregnant women crave pickles!
What is Pregnancy Craving?
While pregnancy is unique to every woman, pregnancy caving to at least one particular food is common during pregnancy. Pregnancy craving is a strong urge to reach for a particular food when pregnant. A true pregnancy craving:
- Elicit a deep urge to eat a particular, very specific food or combination of foods. Pregnancy craving is so strong that it can make like the food you never liked before.
- Make it difficult to stop thinking about the food you are craving for no matter how hard you try to distract yourself.
- Make you want to satisfy the cravings at all costs. You are willing to go to great lengths such as waking up in the wee hours of the night to satisfy your cravings.
What Causes Pregnancy Craving?
While about 50 to 90% of expectant American women develop cravings to certain food (According to research presented in Frontiers in Psychology,) there no known exact cause of cravings for a specific taste, texture, or flavor combination during pregnancy. Here are some factors thought to cause pregnancy cravings:
1. Need to obtain certain nutrients.
When you are pregnant, your body becomes the source of nutrients for your growing baby. It is thought that you develop a craving for certain food as your body runs low on nutrients. While this theory has backed up by the majority, it fails to explain why pregnant women crave for unhealthy nutrients.
2. Hormonal changes
Rapidly changing hormones during pregnancy might be to blame. The hormonal changes happen to support your pregnancy and might sharpen your senses and urge to certain foods.
The cravings during pregnancy may be more of a mental thing than a physical phenomenon where pregnant women are expected to eat more foods during pregnancy because they require more calories to support the growing baby. You, therefore, are encouraged to eat whatever you want whenever you want during pregnancy.
When Do Pregnancy Cravings Start?
The fact remains, pregnancy is unique to every woman. Surprisingly, some women fail to realize they are pregnant until they develop cravings for certain foods. Other women develop cravings late in their pregnancy while others never get a single craving at all throughout their pregnancy.
The first trimester is the, especially near the end of the first 3 months, is when the majority of expectant women experience pregnancy cravings. Coincidently, this is the period when food aversion start declining as well as morning sickness. Up until then you have to pick up NoMo Nausea band, the only 3:1 essential oil infused pressure wristband that is recommended by OBGYN's to help stop morning sickness in pregnancy that is safe for both mom and baby.
Pregnancy cravings tend to peak in the next 3 months (second trimester) then decline slowly during the last 3 months of pregnancy (third trimester.) A few women may experience pregnancy cravings a few weeks after giving birth.
What are women craving while pregnant?
Over 25% crave sweets which accounts for chocolate and candy, but close to follow are carbohydrates (the brain’s juice is what I call it) like pizza and chips are an astounding 19%. Animal protein like chicken or steak, fruit, dairy, and fast food came in at 17%. Followed by cold foods like ice cream and Slurpee. And poor old vegetables at only 12%. Since these cravings weren’t grouped by sodium intake it’s important to talk about the most famous pregnant delicacy, pickles.
Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Pickles?
Most pregnant women develop a craving for ice cream and pickles. Pickles are appealing to other cravings due to their saltiness and “crunch.” Sodium tends to decrease during pregnancy and this might explain why most pregnant women crave pickles because they are rich in sodium.
I had the worst cramps during pregnancy, not the scary kind of cramps in your abdomen, which if you want to know more about just listen to Episode 36, Pregnancy Cramps). I had the foot cramps that would be so bad they would wake me up at night, so my favorite thing to eat was pickles, popcorn, and mustard. Yes all three had high volumes of both sodium AND potassium. Sodium and potassium are known to help stop the cramps in hands and feet, hence why mustard is kept on the sidelines of all youth sports teams.
Other women crave pickles because they are in the mood for pickles. Pregnancies heightened sense of smell causes a memory associated with a certain food that brought them back to a wonderful time. I use to crave apples with peanut butter, and prior to getting pregnant, my husband and I would remember enjoying hot apple cider on a cold night when we were dating. So that would be a mood inspired memory.
Another reason why women crave pickles is that pickles have a sour taste which ensures them get a balanced diet and enough calories.
How many taste buds are on your tongue?
Did you know there are over 8000 taste buds on your tongue with 100 receptors? The sense of taste is mediated by taste receptor cells in clusters called taste buds. These taste receptor cells sample whatever you put in your mouth and report a sensation of taste to the centers in the brainstem. The sensation of taste is generalized into 5 different categories.
Want to see your taste buds, put food coloring on your tongue and you’ll see a bunch of little bumps. Taste buds are groups of 50-150 columnar taste receptor cells bundled together in clusters (think of grapes). Imagine that these grapes have fur, medically called papilla, that sit on top of the tongue these are called taste pore and the inside with the bundled receptors is called the taste bud. Taste of anything in your mouth is followed rapidly with increased salivation and tells your stomach to produce acid because something is coming down that we need to digest.
Sense of smell also profoundly affects the sensation of taste. Have you ever been sick and food just doesn’t taste the same? Well your nose is plugged usually with thick mucus so you can’t smell what you’re eating which affects what it tastes like. Your brain however is incredible and has a taste memory so even if it doesn’t taste the same you know what you’re eating by sight and texture in your mouth. Tastes are disrupted due to intense temperature change, example super cold or super hot.
How many taste buds does a tongue have?
BITTER – If you have something bitter in your mouth, you are actually tasting Quinine. Kale, collards, mustard greens, parsley, endive, celery, arugula, and grain beverage are examples
SALTY – Salty taste substance of sodium chloride, NaCl, salt. Sea salt, tamari, miso, sea vegetables, sesame salt, umeboshi plum, and pickles give you that salty taste.
SWEET – Sucrose, aka sugar, is what your tasting when something is sweet. Corn, cooked onions, squash, yams, cooked grains, cooked cabbage, carrots, parsnips, and fruits. My personal favorite taste especially when combined with salty.
SOUR – This may shock you but it is the acid hydrogen chloride, HCl, hence the sour taste. Lemon, lime, sauerkraut, umeboshi plum, fermented dishes, and pickles also taste sour too.
PUNGENT – My favorite word umami, I feel like that’s a pick up line I’m waiting to get “UuuMami” and is sensed by the amino acid Glutamate, also known as Glutamic Acid. Ginger, garlic, raw onions, white radish, red radish, scallions, wasabi, and spices like cumin are examples.