Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Pickles?

Craving a particular type of food during pregnancy is very common. Some females crave sweets, some chocolate, some pickles, and some a combination of few foods.

Pregnancy cravings differ from female to female. Craving pickle during pregnancy is very commonly seen. Pickle along with satisfying their spicy craving also helps in preventing the most typical symptom of pregnancy i.e. morning sickness.

Why Do Pregnant Women Crave Pickles?

There are numerous tales and stories related to pregnancy cravings. However, let us look at what science have to say about it.

During pregnancy, hormones change rapidly, which may be the cause of these cravings.

There is a surge in estrogen and progesterone during the first trimester of pregnancy. This leads to morning sickness and vomiting.(1)

As the second trimester comes these sicknesses take a back seat as people adapt to the elevated hormones and cravings set in. The cravings are considered to be a normal response of the body recovering from poor appetite due to morning sickness.(2)

Pregnancy also leads to change in sensory perceptions. Some may find it is their usual comforting foods revolting while some may find their once hated food gain a place in their pantry.

A study found that 76 % of pregnant women have abnormal taste and smell and 26% have decreased salt sensitivity.(3) It is believed that these changes occur to protect the body from toxic foods.

It is also believed those craving pickles are low in sodium and there is a myth that during pregnancy the body falls short of sodium. However, there is no scientific evidence that can prove this myth.

Do Craving Occur Due to Lack of Nutrients?

It is true that during pregnancy, certain nutrients requirements change. For example, the iron need of the body increases to support fetal development. There is also an increase in the requirement for zinc, folate, iodine, and protein.(4) But, most of these nutrients are mostly present in the foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy, foods that fall in the category of the aversion list of pregnant females.(5)

And comparatively low in nutrient food such as chocolate, pickles, pizza, and ice cream top the list.

Therefore, it is unlikely to link the pickle cravings with nutrient deficiencies.

Health Effects of Eating Pickles during Pregnancy

Though eating pickles would be satiating the carving of many women it can have positive or negative effects on the health.

The pickles are appealing due to their high sodium and briny flavor. They are high in sodium which is an essential mineral for fluid balance. And it is observed that most people surpass their daily sodium requirement including pregnant females.(6) During pregnancy, a high sodium intake can lead to water retention and increase the risk of high blood pressure. (7) It is ok to satisfy the pickle craving, but it should be consumed in moderation.

Pickles are loaded with vitamins. One dill pickle contains enough vitamin K that is recommended for a pregnant female. This vitamin is known to keep the bones strong and is required for blood clotting.(8,9) Also, pickle juice is known to provide a good amount of vitamin C that is good for the immune system development of the baby.(10)

Eating most of the pickles in moderation is safe during pregnancy. Make sure you keep away from homemade pickles that have higher chances of growing harmful bacterial like Listeria that may cause serious pregnancy complications.(11) According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, pregnant females are more likely to get listeria infection than the other population.(12)

Tips for Consuming Pickles During Pregnancy

To enjoy pickles safely during pregnancy, a few tips should be considered:

  • Look for those labeled as low in sodium.
  • Practice mindful eating, which means stop when you are satisfied.
  • Look out for store brought pickles as they are pasteurized.
  • Follow the storage instructions mentioned in the pickle bottle.
  • After eating, seal the pickle jar securely to avoid it getting infected.

Cravings are a normal part of pregnancy. Surely they do not determine the sex of the baby as considered traditionally and neither any nutritional deficiency. Why they happen is a bit of a scientific mystery.

If craving pickle keeps its consumption in moderation so that the sodium intake does not go beyond the normal intake range.