Most of us look forward to our morning cup of coffee or tea to give us some energy to start of the day. Of course it’s the caffeine that gets us motivated. Caffeine gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, but like anything else, caffeine isn’t so bad in moderation. In fact caffeine has some health benefits. It’s not just coffee and tea that contain caffeine, so if you’re watching your daily caffeine intake you’ll need to consider other sources and just how much caffeine you’re taking in each day.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is nervous system stimulant. It is found naturally in over 60 types of plants including coffee and cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves, guarana and yerba mate. It can also be made synthetically. Caffeine has been used in restorative drinks throughout the world throughout history. Tea leaves were used in drinks in Asia. The Kola Nut was used in Western Africa. The Mayan civilization used the cocoa bean to make a bitter, spicy chocolate drink. Caffeine was used in drinks in early Spain, the West Indies and the Philippines.
By the nineteenth century, experiments were performed to extract caffeine from plants. German scientist, Friedrich Ferdinand Runge, extracted caffeine in white powder form from cocoa beans. French scientists soon followed. Today, caffeine is extracted from beans and plants through water extraction, carbon dioxide extraction and extraction by organic solvents. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, some food products, medication and chocolate. Today, the amount of caffeine allowed in products in the United States of America is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Pros and Cons of Caffeine
As a nervous system stimulant, caffeine gives the user a boost of energy. Unfortunately, this can cause restlessness, sleeplessness, stomach upset and sometimes anxiety in people who are particularly sensitive to caffeine. It also can become addictive. Caffeine can also cause increased blood pressure. However, studies have shown some positive results of moderate caffeine use. It contains antioxidants. It may help lower the risk of skin cancer, oral cancer and recurrence of colon cancer. Used moderately, caffeine may be heart healthy and be used to control pain. Studies have shown that regular caffeine users may be less prone to type 2 diabetes, gout and Alzheimer’s Disease. It also helps boost your workout and has been used to increase memory. With those used to caffeine, it won’t cause dehydration. Like anything else, the key to reaping the benefits of regular caffeine use is to keep intake in moderation.
How much caffeine is there in coffee?
The average 8 ounce serving of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee depends on several factors. It depends on the type of bean used. For instance, darker beans contain more caffeine. It depends on how the coffee is made. Is it brewed,boiled, steeped or made espresso? While a cup of home brewed coffee may contain about 95-100 mg of caffeine, the same size serving from a fast food restaurant or coffee chain store may contain anywhere from 95 to 200 mg of caffeine. The amount of caffeine consumed in a day should not exceed 400 mg per day.
Other products containing caffeine
While many people get their caffeine boost in the morning with a couple cups of coffee, it is important to remember that coffee is not the only source of caffeine you may be consuming. Most tea, of course contains caffeine. Iced tea may typically contains about 30 mg of caffeine in an 8 ounce serving. Brewed black or green tea may contain between 30 and 80 mg of caffeine in an 8 ounce serving. Soft drinks or colas can contain between 20 and 80 mg in an 8 ounce serving. Energy drinks notoriously contain a large amount of caffeine and sugar with no real nutritional value. They should be consumed only by adults and only in moderation. These drinks may contain an average of 200 mg of caffeine in an 8 ounce serving.
Typically the serving sizes are much larger. Caffeinated snack foods include candy, gum and ice cream. While some snacks are marketed to boost energy, some you wouldn’t expect. Coffee flavored ice cream may contain 50 mg of caffeine. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans and contains caffeine. Eating a milk chocolate candy bar can be equivalent to drinking a cup of coffee. Eating a dark chocolate bar can be the equivalent to drinking two cups of coffee. So if you think you consume a few cups of coffee a day, remember that you may also be consuming caffeine through that glass of cola, a chocolate bar snack or an ice cream dessert.
Image via David Dewitt