Why Am I Craving Salt During Pregnancy?

Salty cravings are so popular during pregnancy that they’re even used in movies and television shows as a way to show that a character is expecting. Can these cravings clue you into what is going on with your body during your pregnancy or are they simply a run-of-the-mill symptom?

While there is no scientifically proven cause for salt cravings during pregnancy, that does not make them any less common. Cravings for salt, however, may not tell you anything about your health or that of your baby. Luckily, eating indulging in salty foods is safe while pregnant, so long as you abide by food safety guidelines.  

As with other craved foods during pregnancy, there are many myths (and some truths) as to what your hankering for salty foods might mean. I’ll walk you through the possibilities, as well as give some guidance on how to safely satisfy your salt cravings. 

Craving Salt During Pregnancy: What it Might Mean 

If you have been experiencing a hankering for salty snacks, it is likely that you are curious as to what your salt cravings might mean (if anything). 

Typically, women believe that cravings for salt are a sign that they are not getting enough salt in their diet. In other words, that craving salt is your body’s way of helping you meet your nutritional needs.

While the exact reason for cravings (of any kind) is not known, ensuring your body has its needs met does seem to be the most popular scientific hypothesis (source: Frontiers in Psychology, Intermountain Healthcare). 

Another component of cravings is thought to be cultural. For many western hemisphere readers, salty snacks are a popular pregnancy craving.

pregnant woman opening a salty pickled cucumber

In movies and on TV pregnant women are even shown eating salty foods such as pickles or chips. Part of craving salt during pregnancy could be because feeling this particular craving is all but expected (source: Frontiers in Psychology, Intermountain Healthcare).

Interestingly, women who craved salty foods during their pregnancy were more likely to not experience any food cravings outside of pregnancy. Whereas women who experience food cravings both when pregnant and not were more likely to crave sweet foods (source: Frontiers in Psychology).

There is a popular old wives’ tale that craving salty snacks are a sure sign that you are having a boy. Unfortunately, this old wives’ tale is simply a myth.

Though it is fun to use cravings and other pregnancy changes to try and guess your baby’s sex, the only way to tell getting a good picture of the baby during a scan (source: National Childbirth Trust UK).

Cravings for salt are typically harmless and completely healthy to partake in. Below, I will discuss ways to satisfy salt cravings while keeping safety top of mind. 

Craving Salt in Early Pregnancy (or is it a Sign of Pregnancy?) 

Cravings for salt typically appear during the second trimester, leaving many women who crave salt early on in their pregnancies wondering if early cravings mean something is wrong (source: Frontiers in Psychology).

Rest assured, craving salt during any trimester is totally normal and not a sign of anything serious. There is no “right” or “wrong” time for pregnancy cravings. 

Aside from pregnancy, there are other reasons you might find yourself craving salty foods. These reasons include hormonal changes associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), tiredness, stress, and dehydration (source: Cleveland Clinic).

The latter is likely what prompts some women to crave salt before they even know they’re pregnant. 

Frequent bouts of morning sickness, which is often an early sign of pregnancy, can lead to dehydration. Because salt attracts water (also the culprit of feeling puffy after indulging in super salty snacks), when the body is dehydrated, craving salt is a natural solution.

The more salt you eat the more water your body will hold onto, solving the dehydration issue.

woman pouring salt to a bowl with vinegar and lemon

Craving Salt with Vinegar, Lemon, and other Acidic Foods 

Not only does salt pair perfectly with sweet foods but lemony and acidic dishes as well. Vinegar and lemon are commonly craved along with salt- just take salt and vinegar chips for example!

Same as with cravings for salt alone, scientists are not quite sure as to the reason behind lemon, vinegar, or other acidic food cravings. What we do know is that these cravings are incredibly common!

Fruits, particularly lemon and other acidic citrus fruits, are one of the most popular food cravings during pregnancy (source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Since cravings for acidic and salt are popular during pregnancy, it makes sense that many women will crave both types of foods together. After all, they make a delicious pair!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to safely satisfy salty and acidic cravings, we have got you covered! Check out our dedicated articles on lemon, citrus fruit cravings, vinegar, and apple cider vinegar

How Can I Safely Satisfy my Pregnancy Salt Cravings? 

I am frequently asked what the best way to stop a food craving during pregnancy is. The answer? Eating the food you are craving!

Due to hormonal change and other factors, eating the food you’re craving once isn’t likely to stop cravings for the rest of your pregnancy, but that is okay. Craving salty food while pregnant is totally normal and expected.

When it comes to safety, there is not much that stands in the way between you and a salty bowl of popcorn…or chips…or a salty pickle spear. Be sure to abide by food safety principles, especially with pickled foods, and be sure to keep up with drinking water to stay hydrated.  

salty popcorn in a bowl

Sodium is essential for supporting your baby’s growth and development, both inside and out of the womb (source: Journal of Biomedical Sciences). The only reason to limit how much salt you eat is if your medical provider has specifically told you to. 

Eating too much salt can lead to some discomfort, however. Aside from feeling extra thirsty- and then needing to use the bathroom even more often than before- eating a large amount of salt can lead to feeling a bit bloated or puffy.

Salt attracts water, and so when you eat large amounts of salt your body naturally retains more water to help keep its delicate balance. 

Having a craving for salt is not out of the ordinary, especially during pregnancy. Though your cravings will not necessarily clue you into the baby’s gender, hopefully, this article has provided you with some guidance on what salt cravings can mean. 

Crazy cravings? You might also be interested in:

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Samantha Broghammer, RD

Samantha Broghammer, RD is a Wisconsin-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer. In addition to contributing to Pregnancy Food Checker, she serves the mental health and wellness population as a clinical dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy to those of all ages, from toddlers through senior citizens. Read more about our team here

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