Why Do Some People Crave Red Meat During Pregnancy?

We've all heard about pregnancy cravings. What might sound gag-inducing to everyone else is suddenly a pregnant person's dream. Pickles and peanut butter sandwich? Oh, yeah. Spicy sauce on vanilla ice cream? Yummy. Fried chicken dipped in a vat of mayo? Bring it on.

Why people crave certain things when they're pregnant has everything to do with hormones. According to a study published in Frontiers In Psychology, pregnancy hormones can mess with the body's sense of smell and taste, leaving people wanting what they may have despised before pregnancy and loathing what they once loved.

One thing some people find themselves craving is red meat. Even vegetarians and vegans have reported craving meat during their pregnancy. Which, if you don't eat meat or never have, can be unnerving. But the thing with cravings is you can only hold them off for so long before you cave and indulge. And, if you're pregnant, you should go for it. Your cravings are there for a reason.

"I tell patients, listen to your body," gynecologist and chief medical officer at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Dr. Allison Suttle tells Insider. "Your body does tell you when it needs certain things."

So why do you having a hankering for red meat when you're pregnant? Interestingly enough scientific evidence on the matter has yet to be to be conclusive, but what has been discovered can explain a few things.

Pregnancy cravings might come down to your culture

It might seem strange that our culture would affect food cravings, but that's the case. In fact, food cravings are especially common in people in the United States (via National Library of Medicine). Because pregnancy hormones play a major role in those cravings, we may lean toward comfort food or things we ate as a kid. If you grew up eating a lot of Big Macs from McDonald's, then that's where your cravings may be. If you find comfort in a box of mac and cheese, then you better stock up (via Medical New Daily).

In the US, the top three reported cravings for pregnant people are sweets (25.9%), savory carbs (19.3%), and animal protein (19.3%) (via Frontiers in Psychology). So craving red meat, out of all the food options you might have at your fingertips, isn't uncommon. But as the same study found, those intense cravings do appear to taper off after they reach their peak in the middle of the second trimester, with some people craving something different for the duration of their pregnancy.

While some pregnant people report craving things like clay, dirt, or ice, which is known as pica, most crave what is culturally familiar to them. All they need is to see a commercial for the Olive Garden and they're in the car and on their way to score some breadsticks.

Pregnancy cravings happen ... just because

Although craving red meat may seem like it's suggesting that you're lacking iron and the other vitamins that are in meat, it's been found that that's not the case (via Romper). While your body is telling you what it wants, it's not necessarily telling you what it needs from a nutrient deficiency perspective. However, it should be noted that your iron intake should be increased by 27mg a day during pregnancy, as it's essential for healthy circulation (via Mayo Clinic). But all vitamins should be increased during pregnancy, because it's no longer just you — it's you and a growing fetus.

Aside from hormones twisting your senses round and round, and cultural impacts, why people crave what they crave during pregnancy can be reduced to "just because." Even the study in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that "future research aim to implement the use of this technology to gage the intensity, frequency, types, and temporal patterns of food cravings specifically in this population." In other words, at the moment, things are inconclusive.

Ultimately, if you're pregnant and your body is craving red meat or anything else that you may not have eaten or even liked before, feel free to indulge, in moderation. Carrying around a future human being isn't easy, so go ahead and have that steak medium rare. Your body will thank you for it.