Friday, March 4, 2011

Key Facts about Caffeine.

We just discovered that March is National Caffeine Awareness Month. We're currently celebrating (as we do every morning) with an extra cup of coffee!

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, ranking just behind Water and Tea in global consumption. On average, a cup of Joe has 90-150 milligrams of caffeine, nearly double the amount in a cup of tea and three times the amount in a can of soda. Contrary to popular belief, dark roast coffee has less caffeine than lighter roasts. When classified as a drug because of its effects on the brain & body, caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day, mainly in the form of 450 million cups of coffee. Wow!

On the plus side, caffeine wakes up the brain and makes you more alert. It also raises your dopamine levels, which put you into a better mood, and increases your metabolism. On the negative side, caffeine can have some serious side effects, especially when consumed in massive doses. It increases your heart and breathing rates, the amount of acid in your stomach, fatty acids in the bloodstream and can cause dehydration. Larger doses and cause the jitters, headaches and abnormally rapid heartbeat.

1. Where is Caffeine Hidden?

Whether you're just curious or looking to cut back, there are some surprising sources of caffeine out there. And, since the FDA doesn't require companies to list the amount in their products, it's hard find.

The most interesting is Decaf Coffee. While an average cup of Leaded Coffee has around 100 milligrams, Unleaded/Decaf can have over 20 milligrams, so watch out for it close to bedtime. Also, Non-Cola Sodas like Orange and Root Beer can have around 20 milligrams of caffeine per can. Next among the things you know and love is chocolate, and the better the quality, the more caffeine it typically contains.

Don't forget about ice cream- while chocolate ice cream doesn't have much, coffee ice cream packs quite the punch. No wonder it's so good!

In the man-made creations category, there's plenty of caffeine in Energy Water, Alcoholic Energy Drinks, Weight-Loss Pills, some Pain Relievers and even Breath Fresheners. We've also seen random products infused with caffeine, including Sunflower Seeds, Oatmeal and Beef Jerky. Basically, anything labeled "energy" could have caffeine in it, so check those ingredients carefully!

2. How Can You Cut Back?

As with most things, the easiest way to cut back is gradually. Try going from 3 cups to 2.5 and then to 2. This will prevent the side effects of caffeine withdrawal including headaches and irritability. Next, make sure to hydrate with plenty of water- it's free and helps you stay hydrated & healthy.

If you're using caffeine for an energy boost, swap it out for a small, healthy snack. A little yogurt, handful of nuts or raisins or a piece of fruit always hits the spot! For liquid alternatives, check out tea and herbal tea. It has a ton of flavor and a lot less caffeine than coffee. Also, try some of those newfangled sodas and juices that go long on vitamins and short on caffeine. Finally, if you have the time, take a power nap or do a little stretching in the middle of the day. It'll help you recover energy without the caffeine crutch.

If knowledge is power, you're now one of the most powerful players in our Caffeine Kingdom. Use it wisely!

Any other favorite ingredients or dishes you'd like us to highlight? Post them in the comments section or on our Facebook page! And while you're at it, "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get helpful updates in your news feed.

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