Food Aversions Explained


You have probably heard of food cravings during pregnancy, when pregnant women start to crave foods they’ve never wanted before. But many pregnant women also experience an aversion to certain foods; sometimes to foods they used to love! Wondering what the meaning of food aversion is? It can be summed up simply as a strong dislike to a particular food. 

Common Food Aversions

Food aversions are one of the 5 most common pregnancy symptoms. You can experience any kind of food aversion during pregnancy, but you may have a distinct distaste for certain foods in particular. People can have all different kinds of aversions, and they won’t all be the same. Many women experience aversions to strong-smelling foods, such as garlic. Some other common food aversions are to:

    • Eggs
    • Milk
    • Onions
    • Spicy foods
    • Meat
    • Tea and coffee

What They Mean

Your body experiences many hormonal changes during pregnancy. The hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), doubles every day during the first few months of pregnancy, and naturally peaks around week 11. Increased hCG levels are also associated with morning sickness, and may contribute to food aversions.

Research from Frontiers in Psychology suggests that food aversions may protect a pregnant woman from ingesting potentially harmful foods. Interestingly, expectant mothers tend to experience morning sickness and food aversions within the first three months of pregnancy, when the baby is in its most vulnerable stage of growth. Women who experience food aversions tend to have fewer stillbirths, miscarriages, and premature births. The research also suggests that the psychological and cultural relationship with food may impact food aversions.

What Causes Food Aversions

Your body changes a lot during pregnancy, so several factors can be at play when you’re experiencing food aversion or nausea. 

    • Hormones- Your body has more hCG in the early stages of pregnancy, around the same time that you typically experience morning sickness. Increased hCG levels can leave you feeling nauseous and can make any food very unappealing. Hormonal changes can also increase saliva production, which can give your mouth a metallic taste. 
    • Heightened Senses- Changing hormones can also make your taste receptors extra sensitive or dull them, and they can change throughout the pregnancy. Foods you once enjoyed like garlic or broccoli are now too pungent or bitter because you’re more sensitive to their taste. Your sense of smell can also become more sensitive during pregnancy, and foods with strong smells may be overpowering.
    • Confusing Nutritional Signals- Your body may be craving what it needs to feed you and your growing baby, which is why alcohol and coffee can now seem very unappealing even if you once loved them. In some cases, your body will not want food that is bad for you, but in other cases, it may also avoid food that is good for you. These confusing signals from your body may make you turn your nose up at spinach but crave sugary sweets. In pregnancy, it is common to crave something you’re not used to eating while disliking foods you used to love.

When To Expect Food Aversions

Food aversions typically occur during the early stages of pregnancy, in the first trimester. This is when hCG levels are at their highest. Most pregnant women experience at least one food aversion during the first trimester, and many can experience food cravings at the same time. However, increased hCG levels can continue past the first trimester and you may develop food aversions at any point during your pregnancy. But the good news is, they don’t last forever! Typically, food aversions will disappear after the baby arrives.

How to Cope

Most of the time, it’s normal and healthy to listen to your body and avoid foods that you can’t stand at the moment. You can also give in to your cravings,  in moderation of course. But if you’re concerned that you’re missing out on important nutrition, or that you might be over-indulging, there are some things you can do.

    • Disguise food – Making a smoothie or a shake is a great way to get some nutritionally-dense greens in your system without having to eat salad. Bitter spinach is easily masked by the sweetness from banana, strawberries, and other fruits. You can also cook vegetables into sauces to change the texture and flavor to make it more palatable.
    • Substitute – Substitute your aversions for a different food with similar nutritional value. For example, if you have an aversion to red meat, then try a different protein, like chicken or eggs.

Food aversions are a common pregnancy symptom. If you’re experiencing food aversions, it’s usually okay to follow your instincts and avoid the food you dislike as long as you are getting enough calories and nutrients to stay healthy. However, if your food aversion continues long enough, you can begin to explore food aversion therapy options as well. 

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