Craving spicy food is one of the most common pregnancy cravings. For some women, these cravings come on strong during the first trimester. Does hankering for spicy foods while pregnant mean anything?
Whether you fancy subtle spice or reach for the highest Scoville levels, cravings for spicy foods during pregnancy don’t hint at much. The usual possibilities, such as hormone level changes, may be at play, but science hasn’t revealed the primary cause.
I’ll walk you through what it might mean if you’re craving spicy foods, as well as some less talked about cravings, such as the sour/spicy combination.
What Does it Mean if I Crave Spicy Food When Pregnant?
Cravings catch many pregnant women by surprise. Naturally, cravings during pregnancy can feel worrisome and confusing, especially for first-time expectant mothers.
As with other food and beverage cravings, there is no solid evidence to completely explain cravings, but scientists have a few theories that might explain why pregnancy cravings of all kinds – including those for spicy foods – might happen.
- Hormone changes
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Cultural/social factors
- Your body’s desire for a nutrient/compound found in the food
(source: Frontiers in Psychology)
Pining for ‘hot’ foods can be different than other food cravings, however. Unlike other cravings, like those for dairy or meats, spicy foods don’t have many nutrients in common, which makes the nutrient deficiency hypothesis an unlikely culprit.
Craving both spicy and salty foods could be a different story. Salty cravings are another popular pregnancy craving. The most common theory behind this craving is that your body simply needs more salt. (source: Frontiers in Psychology, Intermountain Healthcare).
If this sounds like you, then there is a chance your craving for spicy, salty food is actually trying to steer you toward salty foods (that just so happen to be spicy). For a more in-depth look at salt cravings, check out our breakdown of why you’re craving salty foods while pregnant.
Many spicy foods are also cultural staples and other types of ‘comfort food.’ You might be craving hot foods simply because they are favorites or make you feel happy during an unfamiliar time.
Craving Spicy Food in Early Pregnancy (The First Trimester)
For many women, pregnancy cravings pop up early – sometimes so early the cravings are what prompt a pregnancy test in the first place!
Cravings for spicy foods are no exception, as the first trimester is a popular time for cravings of any kind (source: NHS).
If you experience morning sickness, this craving can seem like a mean joke. But even though hot foods aren’t known for being easy on the tummy, that doesn’t make them wrong to indulge in. Bear in mind how spicy foods affect you and when you’re most likely to be feeling ill.
Does Craving Spicy Food Mean I’m Having a Boy or Girl?
As the rumors go, cravings for spicy foods (as well as salty ones) supposedly predict that you will have a baby boy!
While the rumor is that spicy cravings = boy, based on my quick (non-scientific) search of some online blogs, the results appeared fairly split. There were a number of women reporting spicy cravings who had girls, too.
Though guessing a baby’s gender is fun and exciting, unfortunately, this is just another old wives’ tale.
Common Spicy Food Cravings When Pregnant
As I mentioned above, spicy foods come in all shapes and sizes. Even with such a wide variety, there are a number of commonly-craved spicy dishes. I’ll break down the details of each.
- Spicy chips (ex: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Takis): Not just for teens, spicy chips and snacks are a favorite among pregnant women. Both salty and spicy, this is one type of food where your craving might be related to the salt more than the spice. Because of the salt content, going overboard can make you feel bloated, and their concentrated heat can be irritating to some people’s stomachs.
- Spicy meat dishes (curries, stews, soups): The spice in these dishes comes from an array of different seasonings and peppers. Out of all of the spicy food options, curries, stews, and soups, all have the potential to create a balanced meal to keep you, your baby, your blood sugar, and your hunger happy. Cooking at home means you can easily adjust to get the spice level just right for you and your cravings.
- Spicy items on their own – chilies, chili powder, hot sauce, jalapenos, etc: For some women, their spice craving is so intense that plain jalapenos morph into a delicious snack. Hot peppers, sauces, and chili on their own can be irritating to your gut, so keep tabs on how these foods make you feel. Using them as a topping (ex: jalapenos on cheese and crackers, hot sauce on pasta) can dampen their blow.
How to Safely Indulge Spicy Cravings
Spicy food packs a punch that can throw off even the most seasoned spice-a-holic. Super hot dishes will even come with a warning label when dining out.
Imagine the last time you took a bite of your meal, only to discover it was a bit spicier than you had intended. The shocking burn leads many women to wonder whether spicy foods are safe for their growing unborn baby.
Good news for all pregnant chili heads, you can safely continue to pack in the heat when expecting (yes, even the super spicy dishes are safe). There are, however, some drawbacks to consider.
First and foremost, if you’re not accustomed to eating spicy foods you may not know exactly how it will affect you. Because spicy food irritates the gut, you run the risk of unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and cramping – especially if you dig into a super spicy dish.
For the same reason, hot spices can also cause (or make worse) indigestion and heartburn. If you’re feeling the burn from indigestion, you might be more comfortable sticking to mild spice or saving your spicy favorites for another time.
For more deets on how spicy foods can affect your pregnancy, head over to our article on spicy food safety.
Craving Spicy AND Sour Foods When Pregnant
Spicy and sour might not seem like the most natural combo to all of our readers, but it’s a cultural staple for others. Mango or pineapple and Tajin, mango curry, and (virgin) jalapeno margaritas are delicious combos.
Cravings for sour foods are thought to be your body’s way of staving off morning sickness or nausea. Craving both sour and spicy seems counterintuitive, but both foods do increase salivation (the production of saliva in your mouth), which may play a role.
Whether the suspected reason behind your craving is cultural or otherwise, craving both sour and spicy foods together can be a normal part of pregnancy and is nothing to worry about.
Craving Spicy AND Salty Food During Pregnancy
Both salty and spicy foods are common pregnancy cravings, so it’s no wonder they’re often craved together. Despite being popular cravings, there’s no direct link between the two.
Because many spicy favorites are also salty, it’s possible that your spice cravings might actually be a salty craving in disguise, especially if spicy foods are a part of your regular meal and snack rotation.
Rest assured, just like spicy/sour cravings, the spicy/salty combo craving is also perfectly normal. If you’ve got a hankering for salty foods, head over to our article on salt cravings to learn more.
We don’t know the exact reason behind cravings for spicy foods and drinks, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious! Hopefully, this article has provided you with reassurance that desiring spicy foods is a normal part of your healthy pregnancy.