I’m Pregnant: Why Am I Craving Citrus Fruit?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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It’s really common to crave strong flavors during any trimester of pregnancy, and citrus is one of the hot favorites.

Whether it’s oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes or just sweets that taste of these fruits – you’re not alone in craving citrus like crazy!

Does Craving Citrus Tell me Baby’s Gender?

Many women have heard lots of old wives’ tales about cravings and gender. Citrus cravings have long been attributed to having a girl (1).

Unfortunately, old wives’ tales are just that – tall tales that get passed on from generation to generation. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that craving citrus means you’re having a girl or boy. But it’s still exciting to guess!

Just for fun, I tallied up women’s forum responses to the question of citrus and gender (2). Expectant mothers confirmed whether they were craving citrus fruit or not, when they knew what the gender of their baby was going to be.

The results were interesting. 53% of women with citrus cravings said they were having (or had already had) a girl, and 46% were having a boy. That’s really not much in it – certainly not enough to be statistically significant, but still intriguing.

Overall, gender can’t be predicted by cravings, but if you’re hankering after something acidic and fruity, at least citrus is a craving you can usually safely indulge in, as you should increase your intake of fruit and veggies during pregnancy.

You might want to check out this article I wrote about how to wash produce to make it safe when you’re pregnant, too.

fresh citrus fruits in a basket

What Does It Mean If I’m Craving Citrus During Pregnancy?

Some women are concerned that citrus cravings mean something is wrong, or that it’s a symptom of something else. Rest assured that citrus cravings are perfectly normal, and they aren’t a sign of anything sinister. They’re just part and parcel of the usual pregnancy cravings that are experienced by many women.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fruit was one of the things craved most often by pregnant women, in all stages of pregnancy, including early pregnancy (source: AJCN).

Food cravings are often a result of changes to your hormones during pregnancy, which causes your sense of smell and taste to change. Your food preferences often change during pregnancy for this reason, too. (source: Ecology of Food and Nutrition).

Scientists haven’t been able to pin down the real reason behind citrus, or other cravings yet. However, food aversions – where foods you previously enjoyed suddenly become less appetizing, might be connected to food or drink that made you nauseous earlier in your pregnancy (source: Appetite Journal).

The Journal Frontiers in Psychology tried to find out if citrus fruit cravings, among others, meant that the pregnant woman in question had some kind of nutritional deficit, such as vitamin C, but no direct link was found.

The bottom line? There’s no clear answer on why some women crave citrus fruit, but it’s perfectly normal, nothing to worry about and an ideal opportunity to enjoy more fruit!

glasses of citrus juice on a table

Can Citrus Fruit Help With Pregnancy Nausea?

Citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes can all be safely eaten in pregnancy, and many women report that citrus helps with morning sickness and general nausea during pregnancy.

There’s some science to back this up, too, though the relationship between citrus fruit and nausea hasn’t been explored enough to be conclusive.

An Italian study in 2014 looked at ways that orange-flavored ice-lollies helped cancer patients reduce nausea related to their treatment (source: SCC). The results showed that the orange flavoring reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and the ice itself was also helpful.

If you’re suffering from nausea and also crave citrus (or want to use it to help), there’s a citrus and ginger effervescent drink for pregnant women on the market, called Sparkling Mama (sold on Amazon). The founder suffered from nausea throughout her own pregnancy and has formulated Sparkling Mama exactly for this purpose.

There are also Preggy Pop Drops, which are citrus-flavored sweets to combat nausea, and a very gingery, lemony drink with pineapple, called Hana Tonic. Many of the reviews claim that these work really well for some mothers-to-be, so you might want to try them for yourself.

squeezing lemon juice on fish before cooking

Ideas to Satisfy a Citrus Craving Safely

There are many ways to get a citrus kick safely in pregnancy, so here are a few ideas and safety tips.

  • Since you need to hydrate more in pregnancy, what better way to get a citrus kick than to drink it? Here are ten drinks pregnant women can enjoy, besides water – and you can make citrus versions of many of them.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice over fish, baby vegetables and salads to give some zing and flavoring (plus vitamins!) to many dishes. Pro tip – this does wonders for tinned or canned fish, too. You can also use the zest of thoroughly-washed fruit, too.
  • Red Grapefruits are a sweeter variety than the normal white ones, and can be baked, making them juicy and sweet. Cut in half, top with sugar, cinnamon or maple syrup and bake at 200c / 400f for 15-20 minutes. Delicious – though omit the sugar/syrup for a healthy version, or if you have diabetes.
  • Always wash fruit properly, even though you don’t eat the skins of citrus fruit. This is because any bacteria on the skin of the fruit can be distributed throughout its center as the knife goes through it. Here’s a complete guide to washing fruit and veggies in pregnancy that might help.
  • For the same reason, avoid pre-cut citrus and buy whole ones to prepare at home yourself.
  • When buying fresh pre-squeezed juice, check if it’s pasteurized or not. Most commercial brands of juice are pasteurized, but a small percentage isn’t, but they have to say so on the packaging. Check the label, and avoid unpasteurized juice. Bear in mind that restaurants or outlets selling ‘fresh-squeezed’ juice might mean it’s not pasteurized.

Don’t forget that most citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C. They also contain folate, potassium, Vitamin B6, niacin, and thiamin, among other phytochemicals (source: FAO), so they’re a good addition to your pregnancy diet, in every trimester.

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