Are Pregnancy Cravings All in Your Head?

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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The cliché of pregnant women craving ice cream and pickles … well, a new study suggests that’s not that far off from the truth.

Researchers at SUNY Albany found that 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. experience cravings, especially in the second trimester. The foods that hit the spot? Ice cream,  fruit juice, fruit, sweets, desserts, dairy and chocolate. (A small group of women in the study who claimed to never experience cravings except during pregnancy leaned towards salty and savory foods.) Another interesting discovery: expectant women reached for sweets more during the first and second trimesters, then craved more savory and salty foods towards the end of their pregnancies.

All these findings were part of the researchers’ initiative to figure out what causes cravings in the first place — to help women curb unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy. After ruling out the link between cravings and caloric benefit (sad fact: cravings start too early in pregnancy for those extra calories to benefit the fetus) and cravings aren’t tied to the body’s need to boost prenatal health (if that were the case, pregnant women would routinely reach for nutrient-rich food, like kale and beans). What it boils down to, the report suggests, is something psychological. Pregnancy becomes an excuse to indulge in things you normally wouldn’t.

While that might not be a great thing, “the ultimate goal of research in this area is to identify predictors of overweight and obesity in pregnant women in order to develop interventions that encourage good nutrition and healthy weight gain,” the report concludes.

What  does this mean for you when the urge to snack strikes?  We’ll just say the the occasional helping of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia isn’t going to be a deal breaker if you’re eating your kale and beans too. ( Frontiers in Psychology)

Did you experience any unusual pregnancy cravings?

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