I've been trying to cut down on caffeine. I came to this goal recently as I was sitting cross-legged in yoga and noticed I felt a little jittery. Not good. It was a sign that the second cup of coffee I had had that morning may have been a cup too many. While caffeinated tea and coffee have been linked to some health benefits, such as lowering risk of skin and liver cancers, caffeine has some downsides. Some people are more sensitive than others and in addition to jitters, it can deplete sleep quality, especially in folks over 40, amp up anxiety, and it's addictive.
If you're looking to limit your caffeine intake, it's important to know what has caffeine in it, and that's not always obvious. Here are several hidden sources of caffeine:
For comparison, an 8-oz. cup of brewed caffeinated coffee has 100 to 200 mg of caffeine, depending on the kind. (A 1-oz. shot of espresso, by the way, has less caffeine than coffee--just 40-75 mg, about the same as a cup of tea.)
1. Energy Drinks: Why do energy drinks perk you up? While many have other ingredients that claim to boost your energy, a lot of them still rely on caffeine. Case in point, a 12-oz. can of Red Bull has 111 mg of caffeine. 5-Hour Energy delivers 207 mg in just 1.93 oz., while Vitamin Water Energy Tropical Citrus has 50 mg in 20 oz.
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2. Decaf Coffee: It's a far cry from regular coffee, but a cup of decaf will still give you around 5 mg of caffeine.
3. Iced Tea: It might seem obvious that iced tea would have caffeine, since hot tea does, but sometimes I don't really think of those peach- and raspberry-flavored sweet iced teas as having caffeine. But they do: Snapple (lemon, peach and raspberry flavors) has 42 mg per 16 oz.
4. Coffee Ice Cream: In a half-cup serving, Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch delivers 42 mg of caffeine, while Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt have 29 mg.
5. Non-Cola Sodas: If you think cola is the only soda with caffeine, think again. A&W Cream Soda (29 mg per 12 oz.), Sunkist Orange Soda (41 mg per 12 oz.), Mountain Dew (54 mg per 12 oz.) and Barq's Root Beer (22 mg per 12 oz.) all contain caffeine. (Most other brands of root beer are caffeine-free.)
6. Chocolate-flavored products: Most chocolate-flavored products that have some trace of cocoa powder in them also have caffeine. Carnation Instant Breakfast, Chocolate-Flavored, has 9 mg of caffeine per packet. A mug of hot cocoa also has about 9 mg of caffeine.
7. Painkillers: Some over-the-counter drugs contain caffeine in significant doses. Excedrin (Extra Strength) and Anacin (Maximum Strength) deliver 130 mg and 64 mg per 2 tablets.
Which sources of caffeine do you avoid?
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Kerri-Ann Jennings is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University.
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