Caffeine: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, February 19, 2009

Many people jump start the morning — and afternoon — with a big cup of coffee or even a cold soda. Why? Because they want the energy-boosting caffeine. But how much is too much? Here are some tips to help you assess your daily dose.

What is Caffeine?
Plain and simple, caffeine is a stimulant. Consuming too much can increase heart rate and cause anxiety, stomach upset and excessive urination. And no, contrary to popular belief, caffeine doesn’t help you “sober up” after too many cocktails.

So how much is too much? The amount in 20 fluid ounces or about two and half cups of coffee — that’s about 250 milligrams — is considered moderate or “average.” If you consume more than this on a regular basis, you may want to consider cutting back. Caffeine is mildly addictive; withdrawal symptoms include headaches and fatigue.

Too much caffeine can also stand in the way of calcium absorption and may interfere with some medications. Women that are pregnant or may become pregnant should also keep their intake limited (a cup of coffee or one caffeinated soda a day – tops!).

Not Just in Beverages
Caffeine exists naturally in coffee, tea and cocoa so you should expect to find it in coffee- and chocolate-containing foods. Manufacturers often add it to soft drinks, energy drinks and some gum and candies — as an energy booster or stimulant. Some cold medicines, pain relievers and appetite suppressants have added caffeine as well.

Americans love their caffeine — soda, coffee, chocolate and more. Want to know who is consuming the most caffeine? A study tracked the highest consumers around the country. See if your hometown made the list of “most caffeinated” cities.

Consider the caffeine in foods and beverages; use this chart to check the caffeine content in your diet (even decaf coffee contains some caffeine). Watch out for those energy drinks too; many contain tons of caffeine but it isn’t always mentioned on the label.

The Bottom Line
A cup of coffee or the occasional chocolate treat is safe for most people. These caffeinated foods also contain antioxidants and other healthful nutrients. There is some evidence to support that moderate coffee drinking may reduce your risk of developing dementia and Parkinson’s disease and can enhance mental and physical performance. Don’t use that as a reason to go caffeine crazy — downing multiple caffeine-containing drinks and foods everyday can be dangerous.

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Comments (52)

  1. Belkys Galeano says:

    I too as a “latina” grew up drinking too much cafe con leche. I was even given that to go to sleep every nite…lol… go figure! I now drink my morning 12 oz. cup and have ice cold decaf cup at nite as my dessert w/ a little whip cream. Helps keep the calorie/fat count down. Great for dieters.

  2. Sue says:

    Coffee is actually a medicine! I love the smell, but don’t drink it at all anymore after my M.D. homeopath said it would antidote remedies which have helped me so much. Coffee was never intended to be a daily drink. Check your history!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Laughing to myself about the article I read several years ago touting the benefits of coffee enemas. I still prefer to drink mine.

  4. KD says:

    I used to drink coffee a ton in college. Started a health kick and stopped drinking it. The other day, had my first cup in a long time and got awful anxiety. Guess I lost my tolerance. Wont be drinking coffee again anytime soon. I’ve noticed I’m better off without it, and once you lose it from your diet, you don’t need it or crave it.

  5. Kristine Brabson says:

    KD, I gave up caffeine just after college too. Sometimes when I have a little dark chocolate, I can feel the caffeine effects. You definitely loose the desire — and I’ve found that eating less sugar and more fruits/veggies/wholesome foods keeps me from needing the boost. The gym helps too. I weened off it pretty easily by trying one of those caffeine-free, tea-based coffee substitutes like Teaccino. You can mix it into the coffee grind and gradually phase coffee out altogether.

  6. John says:

    Since most coffee makers use 5 or 6 ounces as a measure, then the 20 oz represets 3 1/3 cups to 4 cups of coffee daily or one Grande.

  7. Marina Emmons says:

    I work night shift so my coffee consumption was getting out of control. I decided to do a detox and went cold turkey. Although the initial with drawl was awful I have been left with more energy and sleep better. I now treat myself to an occasional cup of black joe just before I work out for an extra boost only.

  8. Velma says:

    I to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. I recently noticed
    I was having too much heartburn and again i thought i was drinking too much alcohol beverage on weekends, so i cut down on both an doing great!

  9. shelley (jamaica) says:

    i consume 1-3 cups a day when i dont fill my portable…u now we read this is bd for u then we read this is good for u…i will pray on it, practise moderation, & dont read as much….

  10. Michael says:

    Caffeine like most drugs affects different people differently. I, for many years, drank 4-5 mugs of coffee/day and never lost a minutes sleep. I also never got hearburn. Rule of thumb is drink what you feel comfortable with. Websites like this must speak in generalites.

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