If you’ve been wondering whether caffeine can be part of a healthy diet, then most likely you:
- Consume caffeine in some form on a daily basis
- Are health-conscious
- Allow yourself some indulgences.
This sounds pretty balanced to me. In fact, it is me!
Here’s a shot of me with my morning brew and my dog, Fudge:
And who remembers the Dalgona coffee trend that was so hot for like a week?
But if you told me to quit my morning coffee?
Um, that would be a firm NO. It’s a ritual I enjoy, and a treat I make space for in my life by not overdoing it, and by supporting my wellness in lots of other ways.
How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
Before we explore ways to include caffeine at healthy levels in your diet, let’s look at where the hard limits are.
The Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups brewed coffee) a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks. Keep in mind that the actual caffeine content in beverages varies widely, especially among energy drinks.”
This is not a permission slip to go ahead and drink ten cans of cola per day!
A few other things to consider about your caffeine intake:
- The term “safe” usually means it’s not likely to cause death or sudden illness. It does not mean the same as “healthy”.
- Caffeine content is not the only consideration in foods and beverages. Be mindful of other ingredients and their impact on you.
- These figures are for healthy adults. Caffeine, especially at this level, can be unsafe for:
- Children and adolescents (the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under age 12 should not consume any food or beverages with caffeine, and adolescents age 12 and older should limit caffeine intake to no more than 100 mg daily)
- People with underlying medical issues (especially high blood pressure, heart conditions and sleep disorders. Certain medicines can also interact with caffeine)
- Pregnant women (according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg a day (about 2 cups brewed coffee).
As a health coach, I would consider the “safe maximum” of 4 cups to be a high daily intake. I do not recommend you include this much caffeine. The equivalent of one or two coffees per day is where I recommend you stop. I personally stop at two cups, and I drink them before noon.
How Much Caffeine Am I Drinking and Eating?
To get a better idea of the levels of caffeine in food and drink, let’s look at common sources of caffeine (all figures are approximate):
- 1 cup or 8 ounces of brewed coffee contains 95mg caffeine.
- 1 cup of instant coffee contains 60mg caffeine.
- Decaffeinated coffee contains 4mg caffeine.
- 1 shot or 1.5 ounces of espresso contains 65mg caffeine.
- 8 ounces of black tea contains 47mg caffeine.
- Green tea contains 28mg caffeine.
- Decaffeinated tea contains 2mg caffeine
- Herbal tea contains no caffeine
- A 12-ounce can of regular or diet dark cola soda contains 40mg caffeine.
- 1 ounce of dark chocolate contains about 24mg caffeine; milk chocolate contains one quarter of that amount.
- While 8 ounces of an energy drink contains about 85 mg caffeine, the standard energy drink serving is 16 ounces, doubling the caffeine to 170 mg. Energy shots are more concentrated; a 2-ounce shot contains 200 mg caffeine. Many of the new brands on the market have much more caffeine.
Caffeine is not all bad according to the research. There are two sides. Some studies say it is bad for us, while other evidence indicates it improves mood, decreases the likelihood of depression, stimulates brain function and protects us against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
While there are two sides to the caffeine story, the research seems to suggest that you can enjoy it in moderation.