Wanting to eat fruit, fruit and more fruit is the most common craving pregnant women have. There are different ideas and opinions about what causes cravings and what cravings actually mean, though as of 2011 the scientific evidence is sparse. Doctors and other health professionals generally agree that it's safe to indulge fruit cravings in moderation -- and even to redirect cravings for other sweet foods to fruit, because it's high in nutrition and relatively low in calories.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, both food cravings and aversions begin during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the hormonal changes of pregnancy are most dramatic. A craving may be one of the first symptoms that you are pregnant. During the first trimester, hormonal shifts can greatly change the way you experience taste and smell, but no one really knows if hormonal changes drive aversions or cravings. What is known, according to BabyCenter.com, is that aversions and cravings are somehow connected. Women in Ethiopia who reported food aversions were twice as likely as other women to also crave foods.
A craving for fruit or other sweet food might indicate low blood sugar, so if that seems to be the pattern make sure to eat breakfast and also smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. A related explanation for the larger phenomenon is that cravings are biological -- or perhaps were, during the course of human civilization -- and women need to pay attention to the body's wisdom. As BabyCenter.com points out, some alternative health practitioners believe magnesium deficiency can trigger chocolate cravings -- nutrients actually available in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Craving milk might indicate a need for calcium; peaches, beta-carotene; and fruit in general, vitamin C.
Another explanation is that pregnancy cravings are the result of environmental and psychological influences as much as biological need. The messages women receive about what kinds of foods they should be eating actually are acted on psychologically, in the form of cravings, suggests Parents.com. Cultural expectations -- and permissions -- connected to pregnancy also might be in play, which is almost the only way to explain the fact that U.S. women frequently crave chocolate during pregnancy but European women don't.
Another theory, one explained by Parents.com, is that cravings are simply desires, nothing more, nothing less. After all, at certain moments that pint of ice cream might be the best hug available. So the best general approach is to humor the cravings, within reason, not giving way to every whim but also not ignoring them. Make healthy substitutions whenever possible -- fresh strawberries, say, instead of strawberry ice cream -- and remember that eating well means satisfying your emotional needs, too.