A moderate amount of caffeine can improve our alertness, and sometimes our performance on mental tasks.
Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea and chocolate, and it is added as a flavouring ingredient to some carbonated beverages. For example, it imparts a slightly bitter flavour to cola beverages. Caffeine-free soda pop usually has a slightly different taste than “regular.”
Beverage companies are required to list caffeine on the ingredient label. However, beverage companies do not have to list the amount of caffeine present.
According to most health experts, we should try to limit our caffeine intake to the amount in two or three cups of coffee, or about 200 to 300 milligrams, per day. Coffee can vary greatly in caffeine content, depending on the ratio of water to coffee grounds.
Breastfeeding women and women contemplating pregnancy should follow their health-care provider’s advice regarding caffeine consumption. At least one study has shown a link between caffeine intake and increased risk of miscarriage, but more research is needed.
A moderate amount of caffeine can improve our alertness, and sometimes our performance on mental tasks. Too much caffeine can leave us “wired” and lead to sleepless nights, headaches, abnormal heart rate or diarrhea in some cases. An abrupt withdrawal of caffeine can result in irritability, fatigue and nervousness.
If you decide to cut down on your caffeine consumption, approach caffeine withdrawal slowly. You simply can use less coffee grounds while making coffee or substitute more and more decaffeinated coffee grounds for “regular.”
If someone else makes the coffee or tea, you can add hot water to dilute the caffeine content. Add some fat-free milk to whiten coffee. You will dilute the caffeine and add some calcium, too.
Think about your beverage intake and try not to let coffee and soda pop crowd out beverages such as water, milk and 100 per cent juice.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State University
Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the
department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.