Pregnancy Cravings

Is there any truth to the belief that pregnant women suffer intense cravings for particular foods, sometimes in odd combinations? Absolutely. According to medical researchers, pregnant women experiencing changes in hormones and an increased need for calories frequently exhibit changes in the types of foods they prefer. Common cravings include fruit, milk products, salty foods, chocolate, and other sweets. In the early stages of pregnancy, women often have a strong aversion to bitter tastes, which scientists think may serve as a warning against ingesting toxic plants or fruits during the period when a fetus is most vulnerable. In later stages of pregnancy, women often exhibit preferences for salty foods (which satisfy their increased need for sodium) and sour foods (which contribute to a varied diet). Thus the lure of pickles and potato chips.

—Paula Kepos diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten hormone: molecules produced by one set of cells that influence the function of another set of cells estrogen: hormone that helps control female development and menstruation serotonin: chemical used by nerve cells to communicate with one another neurotransmitter: molecule released by one nerve cell to stimulate or inhibit another protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet testosterone: male sex hormone

Women may crave ice cream when they're feeling anxious, and men may hunger for hot dogs when they get bored. These food cravings can be quieted by eating regular, healthy meals. [Photograph by Mark Peterson. Corbis. Reproduced by permission.]

energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel cardiovascular: related to the heart and circulatory system calorie: unit of food energy more muscle mass than women. They eat increased amounts of protein to build, repair, and synthesize muscle.

Stress Response. Many people today lead stressful lives, which can lead to stress eating. Increased stress results in a need for carbohydrates to provide energy for the stress response, also known as the fight-or-flight response (a defense reaction of the body that prepares it to light or flee by triggering certain cardiovascular, hormonal, and other changes). When coping with stress, a person needs increased energy to deal with the demands placed on the body. Carbohydrates provide a fairly rapid source of fuel to the body by raising blood-glucose levels. However, when life becomes hectic and feels out of control, it is common to reach for any available food regardless of calories or nutritional content.

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