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Health & Pregnancy

Here's to Pickles and Ice Cream

Constant Cravings
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Chocolates, Blueberries, and Those Pesky 'Momisms' continued...

But that doesn't mean cravings are your body's way of screaming for foods it needs, experts say. That may be an eye-opener for those of us raised by mothers who took every opportunity to point out that our bodies must be deficient in a food we're craving -- proof that we're not eating right, or enough.

Niebyl says an example commonly used to disprove that old wives' tale is the urge to eat ice cubes, which is often associated with anemia. "That doesn't help the iron deficiency. They need to be eating iron-containing foods." One exception to the rule, however, may be salty foods. The body needs a little more sodium [salt] to balance the extra fluid volume during pregnancy, although the normal diet usually includes enough, adds Ward.

There's also no scientific evidence that what you crave during pregnancy will become one of your child's favorites. Anne Pike, a mother of four who lives in Evanston, Ill., says she ate tons of blueberries during her first pregnancy, and sure enough, by the time David was 1, he already showed an affinity for them. "He loved them as a baby, couldn't get enough of them," she says. With her second, she craved hot dogs, and her daughter, Sara, loves those.

But it's hard to tell whether those would be foods the children would like anyway, or if it's really a matter of conditioning. "There's an element of a self-fulfilling prophecy here," Pitkin says. "Let's say a woman eats chocolate during pregnancy. If she likes it, she's going to have it around the house afterward, too."

And while studies have shown that a fetus does develop a sense of taste in the womb and will even swallow more when the amniotic fluid is sweetened, it's doubtful that the fetus can actually taste what you taste. The food you eat is already metabolized by the time it gets through the umbilical cord to the baby, he says.

The sole evidence for a link between eating habits during pregnancy and children's food preferences is new research indicating that women with morning sickness tend to have children who crave salt as adults. Researchers speculate that it may have to do with dehydration that can occur when pregnant moms are too nauseous to drink enough.

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