Here's Why You're Craving Red Meat During Pregnancy

by Caroline Tung Richmond

Pregnancy cravings are the real deal — at least they were for me. When I was pregnant, I wanted to stuff my face with raw vegetables (yes, really), but once I hit the second trimester, I just wanted fried chicken drumsticks. My family said that my body needed certain nutrients from the foods that I craved — although I'm still unsure which vitamins are found in fried chicken — but I didn't know if that had any scientific merit or if it was an old wives' tale. Like, what does it mean if you crave red meat during pregnancy? Do those constant dreams about cheeseburgers mean you have a vitamin deficiency, or does your baby just like Five Guys?

If you're an expectant mom who's craving red meat, you've probably had people tell you that your body needs more iron. This makes sense to an extent because many women experience low levels of iron during pregnancy (which is why you should always take a prenatal vitamin rich in iron), but should you blame your sudden addiction to meatballs on an iron deficiency?

A study published in the Frontiers In Psychology journal looked into pregnancy cravings at length, and the findings showed that there isn't much evidence to support the association between food cravings and vitamin deficits. If a correlation like that did indeed exist, then pregnant women would crave nutrient-rich foods like dark greens and whole grains instead of roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken drumsticks.

So where do pregnancy cravings come from then? The same study concluded that a few factors might be at play. Pregnancy hormones, for example, can alter your senses of taste and smell, which can trigger both food cravings and aversions. Another possible factor is purely biological — you're eating more often and wanting certain foods simply because your pregnant body needs a higher calorie intake. And so, there may be multiple reasons behind your mysterious red meat craving, but an iron deficiency isn't one of them.

Growing a baby can really tire you out, so you should definitely feel free to indulge yourself a little. A perfectly grilled ribeye steak? Yes, please. A cheeseburger with extra pickles? Go right ahead. Just keep in mind to eat red meat in moderation and to load up on those lentils and leafy greens, too. Your baby and your heart will thank you for it.