It’s a given that as soon as September rolls around, almost everyone is all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin candles, pumpkin pastries, and of course, pumpkin spice lattes. It seems like everyone craves pumpkin everything when fall arrives, and of course, that’s no different for pregnant women — in fact, they may crave it even more because, you know, hormones. But what does it mean if you crave pumpkin while pregnant? Is it just because you’re excited for fall like everyone else, or is there something more to it?
According to Amanda Capriglione, a registered dietitian nutritionist and active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, though some experts may say it may be due to lacking vitamin A or fiber — which pumpkin has a ton of — she believes it’s because pumpkin is everywhere. And this definitely holds true, because if you’re smelling a lot of pumpkin from it being all over the place, it makes sense you’d want to eat it and crave it (if the smell doesn’t make you nauseous). Since hormones increase your sense of smell during pregnancy, your brain alerts your tummy that you have to have it right now and you’re starving.
Research has also found that your cravings may be totally psychological. A study from University at Albany found that there was no connection between a craving and a nutritional deficiency. Instead, it's that your brain knows having pregnancy cravings is the social norm, so you manifest them in your head. With pumpkin surrounding you, it seems easy that you would feel an insatiable urge to eat all the pumpkin pie.
Since moms-to-be aren’t technically supposed to drink too much caffeine during pregnancy, how can you get your pumpkin spice latte fix? Obviously, there’s always getting decaf at Starbucks, but if you wanted a healthier, and much less expensive option, you can make your own at home, according to Capriglione. “Purchase pumpkin spice tea (decaf preferred for pregnant ladies), brew, and add your desired amount of milk,” she says. “You can also make a frozen 'latte' by using quality canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, as it's too high in sugar) and blending it with your choice of milk, frozen bananas, pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon, plain yogurt, and decaf coffee."
Are there any positive effects of eating or drinking pumpkin during pregnancy? Turns out, it may help any tummy issues you may be having. I work part time at a healthy pet food store, and we always offer puréed pumpkin to pet owners whose dog or cat is having digestive issues. It helps firm up loose stool, as well as softening too firm of stool. I asked Capriglione if that works for humans, too, and she said yes. “Pumpkin is packed with fiber. It contains 7 grams of fiber per cup of canned pumpkin,” she explains. “Fiber is important for digestive health and satiety, just make sure to drink enough water. If you're pregnant, you hopefully you drink enough already.” Another healthy pumpkin recipe Capriglione thinks you'll love is banana-pumpkin muffins. Um, yum.
So, out of all the cravings you could be having, pumpkin is a pretty healthy one, all things considered. Capriglione says that in addition to fiber, it’s rich in beta-carotene — hence the orange color — which converts to vitamin A in your body, and vitamin A helps keep your eyes healthy, she notes — pumpkin actually contains more than 200 percent of your daily intake of vitamin A. It also contains 20 percent of the amount of your daily vitamin C, which helps to protect your immune system — "super important for pregnant woman,” Capriglione says. And not only does vitamin A keep your eyes healthy, but it helps your unborn baby’s eyes, too. “Vitamin A is important help develop your baby’s eye development. It's also needed for cell growth and brain development in your little one in vitro."
It’s totally expected to crave pumpkin during pregnancy right now since it’s all over the place. So take advantage of those pumpkin cravings while you can. Not only is pumpkin healthy for you and baby, but it’s totally delicious and versatile in the ways you can enjoy it.
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