Caffeine, Where’s it Hiding?

March 07, 2011

There are many sources of caffeine, some obvious and others less so. Find out why caffeine might be good for you and where it might be hiding

There are many sources of caffeine available to us on a daily basis, some may be obvious and others less so. According to experts, more people are using caffeine as an energy boost than ever before. Johns Hopkins University researchers believe that about 250 mg of caffeine a day, or about two to three cups of coffee - which is around the average daily intake- has a variety of benefits.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found most commonly in coffee, cocoa beans, kola nuts and tea leaves. Caffeine levels in food products differ according to preparation methods, serving sizes and source. An eight-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee, for example, contains 65 to 125 mg of caffeine, while an eight-ounce serving of brewed tea contains 20 to 90 mg. A 12-ounce can of soda contains 30 to 60 mg of caffeine. Another growing source of caffeine for all ages is energy drinks, which can contain between 50 and 160 mg of caffeine (or more) per eight-ounce serving.

Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant on the central nervous system, enhancing self-rated moods like efficiency, vigor, energy and clear-headedness. Recent studies even demonstrate a connection between caffeine consumption and increases in cognitive function, especially as it is related to alertness. Additionally, caffeine consumption has been shown to improve physical performance and endurance.

Do keep in mind that caffeine sensitivity fluctuates greatly from person to person, and can vary according to an individual's frequency of consumption, metabolism, genetics, and other factors. Certain sensitive sub-populations, including pregnant women, children and older individuals, and those with a history of heart disease, may experience the effects of caffeine at lower levels, and should limit their consumption to no more than 300 mg/day.

If you are looking to cut back on your caffeine consumption, you’ve probably already reduced the amount of coffee, tea, and soda that you consume; but caffeine can pop up in other not so obvious places; and on top of that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require caffeine content listed on nutrition labels, so it hard to tell whether a product even contains caffeine, let alone how much!

So where is caffeine hiding? 
Decaf coffee- some contain over 20mg of caffeine; non-cola sodas- when tested, products like root beer, orange soda and even cream soda contained about as much caffeine as a Coke. Mints- some mints are purposefully caffeinated, so read the label before accepting a breath freshener from a friend. Chocolate- naturally found in cocoa beans, the darker the chocolate the more caffeine contained. Stick with a small square if you need a chocolate fix in the evening. Ice cream- yes we’re taking about the obvious coffee or chocolate ice cream but these treats can contain about as much caffeine as a can of soda.

Read labels carefully as manufacturers are adding caffeine to products like, oatmeal, beef jerky, vitamin infused waters, protein bars and more.