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Pregnancy is one of the most important times of your life to take care of your health and maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is also a time when most people’s bodies have quite a different idea of what’s healthy. Sugar can have a serious negative impact on your body while pregnant, so why do so many pregnant women crave sugar?
Food cravings while pregnant can be the result of several different problems. They have been linked to nutritional deficiency, hormonal changes, or increased sensory input, making delicious treats seem even more irresistible than normal.
Sugary cravings are common among pregnant women, and while there may be no way to stop them, it is important to understand what sugar cravings are, what causes them, and how you can safely manage them.
What causes of food cravings while pregnant?
The most commonly craved food by women in the United States is chocolate, whereas in Japan the most commonly craved food is rice. This is just one reason why psychosocial factors are thought to be involved in food cravings.
Pregnant women will also sometimes experience an increase in taste and smell during pregnancy, making food appear even more delicious than normal. This may explain why mouth-watering sugary treats are such a common craving among pregnant women.
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone undergo significant fluctuations during pregnancy. This has a profound and not yet fully understood effect on the human body. It has been theorized that changes in hormones impact the tongue receptors, which why your normal favorite foods may appear far less appealing than your odd cravings.
The final possible reason for cravings is nutritional deficiency. Our bodies naturally produce cravings to alert us of nutritional deficiencies. It could mean that you are lacking in magnesium, zinc, or several other vitamins and minerals. It also could mean that you are not hydrated enough and need to drink more water.
One study has found that women with gestational diabetes are more likely to crave sweet foods than women who do not suffer from gestational diabetes. This is linked with the fluctuation of pregnancy hormones and can be dangerous in the exasperation of diabetes.
Are sugar cravings normal during pregnancy?
If you are eating a healthy and well-rounded diet, then sugar cravings should be no cause for concern. Food cravings and sugar cravings in particular are very normal and can be managed without compromising your health.
If your cravings feel overwhelming and you are having a difficult time resisting them, it might then be a good idea to consult with your doctor or pediatrician. They could help you uncover any underlying causes such as nutritional deficiencies, and quickly treat them.
When do sugar cravings start during pregnancy?
Most pregnant women find that pregnancy cravings begin in the first trimester of pregnancy and worsen throughout the second. Most cravings will decrease or disappear entirely by the third trimester.
Everyone experiences pregnancy cravings differently, and some people may even find that cravings continue after childbirth. Some people have the same cravings throughout their pregnancies and others have cravings that swing wildly between different foods.
You may find you crave things for a day or a week, or you may find your cravings start on day one and don’t let up until the day you give birth. It depends on your body, your normal diet, and the environment around you.
Is it bad to eat sugar while pregnant?
Avoiding sugary items is a good idea for everybody, but your body is under additional stress and strain when pregnant. Several adverse health effects can occur from eating excess sugary sweets while pregnant.
It is natural for your body to gain some weight during pregnancy. After all, you are growing a little person inside your belly, but excessive weight gain during pregnancy can lead to several health complications, such as back pain, dental problems, and even gestational diabetes.
Excess sugar consumption while pregnant can also increase blood sucrose levels. Sucrose is a specific additive used in several sugary foods and can increase your blood sugar after eating them. It is important to avoid sucrose rich foods, except for fruits, while pregnant.
Eating too many sugary foods while pregnant also has an impact on the health of your baby, and can cause weight issues, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Sugar can also cause the baby to be born prematurely or suffer other birth-related complications.
Babies may also suffer from impaired cognitive abilities because of too many sweets while pregnancy. A study out of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that children of parents with a sweet tooth while pregnant have lower memory retention and are slower learners.
How much sugar is safe to consume while pregnant?
Before trying to become a parent, it is a good idea to clean up your diet of as many sugars and processed foods as possible. Create a healthy body and ensure the majority of your calories are coming from whole foods. Once you are pregnant, a good rule of thumb is that no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons should come from refined sugar.
Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and stevia can also have a considerable negative health impact on both a mother and a child. They have been linked to bladder cancer and other diseases, making sugar the best option. Just be sure to consume sugar, honey, and other natural sweeteners in moderate amounts.
Read more about safe food choices during pregnancy in our article here.
How can I manage pregnancy cravings?
If your food cravings are unmanageable, seek the help of your doctor who will be able to help you treat any underlying conditions. If, however, you are just experiencing normal cravings, try these tips to keep them under control.
- Eat a healthy breakfast
Eating a breakfast that is filling and nutritious will make you less likely to be focusing on food throughout the day. You will also have the energy to fight hunger pangs and cravings throughout the day.
- Eat regularly
Plan small meals throughout the day, before you have the overwhelming feeling of hunger. Eat healthy meals throughout the day to remain full and satisfied.
- Don’t worry about portion sizes
Trust that your body knows how much to eat to fuel you through a pregnancy, and instead focus on feeding it as much healthy food as it needs to keep you and your baby healthy. You’re not “eating for two” – so don’t worry there. Look after your needs and your body will look after baby.
- Drink plenty of water
A lot of hidden sugar can come in the form of sweetened drinks. Swap out the soft drinks and make sure that you are properly hydrated with water. Water also helps to fill your stomach so you will be more easily able to control sugar cravings throughout the day.
- Keep sweets out of the house
If you can’t easily reach for a sugary sweet when you’re in the middle of a craving then you are less likely to have it. Stock your shelves and cupboard full of healthy meals and snacks and keep the sugary treats as special treats when you’re out and about.
Sugary cravings when you’re pregnant is very normal and can be managed with a healthy diet and some careful food planning. It may be caused by hormonal changes, sensory changes, or nutritional deficiency, or a range of other possibilities. Staying away from sugar as well as artificial sweeteners while pregnant helps to keep you and the baby healthy.