Caffeine: Good or Bad?

Can’t go without that morning latte or afternoon soda, but worried you're overloading on caffeine? Here are some tips to help you assess your daily dose of caffeine.

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.

    READ MORE:
Keep Reading

Next Up

Coffee: Good or Bad?

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day. In Italy, people down 14 billion espressos every year. But the coffee-guzzling king is Finland, where residents drink more coffee than anywhere else in the world. Clearly, coffee is one of our favorite beverages, but is it good or bad?

Coffee Creamer: Good or Bad?

Do you start your morning with a splash of liquid coffee creamer? Find out if that’s a smart way to begin the day.

10 Foods for Better Memory

Forget something? Perhaps you need to add these 10 foods into your diet—all have been shown to help better your memory.

It Turns Out That Coffee Drinkers Get a Pre-Workout Caffeine Boost, Too

Consuming caffeine before you exercise can enhance your performance even if you are a big-time coffee guzzler.

10 Foods That Are Healthier Than You Think

Deciphering which foods are healthy can be tough. Some foods that are marketed as “healthy” are anything but. Other foods might not have a fancy label or have a bad reputation (dark meat, anyone?) and you're passing them up. Here are 10 foods you may be avoiding unnecessarily.

Reading List: Caffeine Hurts Your Heart, A Look at Cheap Food & A Pro Footballer Goes Veg

A new (rather graphic) ad wants to keep you from pouring on the pounds, coffee and alcohol are linked to irregular heartbeats and there's a new "veggie-filled" Goldfish snack on the market.

What's Your Java IQ?

To celebrate National Coffee Day, take Food Network Magazine's coffee quiz.

Iced Coffee Hacks

Transform your favorite refreshing treat with these sweet hacks.

7 Tips for Making the Best Coffee Ever

Every coffee lover should consult these important rules (and handy tricks) before brewing another pot of java.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Bottled Coffee Drinks

Although a plain cup of java runs about 50 calories, many brands add ingredients that can make you think twice before sipping. Here are four things coffee lovers should be aware of.