Why do pregnant women crave pickles?

A recent study conducted related to pregnancy food cravings found that almost 40% of pregnant women list "something sweet" as their number 1 pregnancy food craving. Trailing at the second position, "salty food" was craved by nearly 33% of women during pregnancy, while spicy food was following at 17%, and sour or tart foods like green apples and citrus fruits coming in 4th as 10% of pregnant women's favorite snack.

Food cravings are a common feature of pregnancy symptoms; however, the reasons behind these pregnancy urges are still not well understood. Some believe that these cravings are meant to indicate a nutritional deficiency in the expectant motherís diet. But this does not explain the strange "pica" cravings and unexpected preference for foods that actually have low levels of nutrition.

A craving for pickles indicates low sodium levels in the blood. A way to deal with such cravings is to substitute them with healthy alternatives, for instance, popcorn sprinkled with herb blends or sesame breadsticks with a spicy mustard dip.

Certain studies have been carried out by surveying pregnant women in order to find out what they crave and at what time. Salt, bitter, sweet, sour, and hot tastes are often craved at some point or the other during pregnancy, though not necessarily together.

The findings from these studies seem to suggest, for instance, that women shy away from bitter foods in their first trimester of pregnancy. This is possibly because bitterness signals the presence of a toxin that could hurt the fetus. Women are likely to experience increased cravings for salty and/or sour flavors, such as pickles, during advanced stages of pregnancy, while sweet flavors are often desired during the early stages.

One possible explanation for a craving like pickles and ice cream is simply that the woman's body is in search of specific nutrients. Many midwives are of the opinion that pregnancy cravings indicate a sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, and that the body is trying to make up for such deficiencies by making the foods with the needed nutrition seem particularly appealing.

The above condition is definitely true in the case of pica - a syndrome in which people eat or crave things that are actually inappropriate for eating, for instance, clay and glass.

Pregnant women often develop dehydration and electrolyte deficiencies which the brain translates into cravings for salty foods, in order to help them receive electrolytes and retain water.

Craving pickles wrapped in cheese and exclusively craving a single food like pickled onions is also common. Frequently, women report having cravings for food that they never ate on a regular basis prior to pregnancy; in the same way, many women even experience an aversion to the same craved-for items after the birth of their baby.

Where do the cravings come from?

There is no ultimate answer as to why pregnant women crave certain foods during pregnancy. Some pregnant women might experience no cravings at all. Nonetheless, following are the several explanations that have been put forth by researchers trying to find the key to such pregnant diet cravings:

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy can alter a woman's sense of taste and smells making her crave food which she otherwise would not have enjoyed.

  • Temporary nutritional deficiencies could also cause cravings; a craving for pickles possibly indicates low sodium levels in the blood.

  • Emotional needs are connected with food intake. A pregnant woman may be craving certain foods, consciously or sometimes subconsciously, as a response to her emotional needs.
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