Is Caffeine Healthy?

Almost 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day. Caffeine is a found naturally in chocolate, coffee, and tea. is added to beverages such soda and energy drinks, and is even found in many weight loss pill and some over-the-counter pain medications. Caffeine is used medically as a cardiac stimulant and as a mild diuretic and used recreationally to boost energy and heighten alertness.

cup of coffee
Most Americans consume over 300 mg of caffeine every day. How much caffeine are you consuming every day?

  • Drip-brewed coffee = about 100 mg per 8 ounce cup
  • Double espresso = 45-100 mg per 2 ounces
  • Decaf coffee = 1-5 mg per 8 ounce cup
  • Black tea = 50 mg per 8 ounce cup
  • Green tea = 20 mg per 8 ounce cup
  • White tea = 15 mg per 8 ounce cup
  • Caffeinated soda = 40-50 mg per 12 ounce can
  • Energy drinks (Red Bull and Rock Star) = 80 mg per 8 ounce can.
  • Milk Chocolate = 6 mg per ounce
  • Dark Chocolate = 20 mg per ounce
  • Maximum strength Antacid = 32 mg per tablet
  • NoDoz and Vivarin = 200 mg per tablet
  • Extra Strength Excedrin = 65 mg per tablet

There are both negative and positive side effects of caffeine consumption. As you may know, caffeine is addictive – you’ve heard of people who “cannot function without their morning cup of coffee”. Caffeine also inhibits sleep. Caffeine has a half life of 6 hours. So if you consume 200 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee) at 3pm, by 9pm, 100mg of that caffeine is still in your system and may affect your ability to get a good nights sleep. Consuming more than 300 mg of caffeine per day is also linked to a decrease in bone density and may accelerate bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women. There is inconclusive evidence that caffeine aids in weight loss or causes heart disease.

However there are also a number of positive effects of caffeine. Studies have shown that long-term caffeine consumption can lead to a decrease in risk for diseases such as diabetes, colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Caffeine can also decrease headaches, boost your mood, and even increase cognitive functioning.

So what’s the verdict? Caffeine in moderation (no more than 300mg per day) is an acceptable part of a healthy diet. Consuming more than 300 mg per day can lead to feeling jittery and can even have the opposite effect making you feel sluggish and crabby. However, some sources of caffeine are better choices than others. Coffee and tea offer powerful antioxidants that aid in disease prevention. Soda and energy drinks tend to be loaded with sugar and will cause your blood sugar to increase dramatically and crash later leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Adding sugar to your coffee will also have this same effect, so keep the sweeteners to a minimum.

I know you are all now wondering, and the answer is yes, I am a coffee drinker. I hate to admit it, but I rely on my morning cup of coffee to get me going. Every morning I make a 3 cup pot of coffee with 1 Tbsp of ground coffee. I do not add sugar or sweetener to my coffee, only a splash of soymilk. I also occasionally have a cup of tea later in the day; either a glass of unsweetened iced tea in the summer or a cup of hot tea in winter. Like many Americans, I do think I could benefit from decreasing my reliance on caffeine. I don’t see myself cutting coffee or tea completely out of my diet, but I do plan to change my regimen to include half decaf and half caffeinated coffee in my morning brew to decrease the amount of caffeine I consume.

How much caffeine do you drink on a daily basis? What do you do to decrease the amount of caffeine in your diet?

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