Healthier Ways to Get Your Caffeine
The best ways to get your boost
If my husband doesn't drink some by 10 a.m., he can expect a man-sized headache by early afternoon. My
best friend can't speak in full sentences until she gets hers. I'm talking
about coffee, of course! But the real addiction here is to the
caffeine IN coffee, not coffee itself.
My husband is a two-mugs-a-day drinker, so it's not like he's guzzling java
all day long. Still, his body is dependent on the caffeine kick from those two
mugs. As long as he gets one cup of coffee in the a.m., he's generally
headache-free. Trust me; I've spent many a morning on vacation tracking down a
coffee source for him.
The truth is that there are lots of ways to get your caffeine fix. Some of
the people chugging down those Big Gulps all afternoon may be in it for the
caffeine. Another popular way to get caffeine is tea, hot or iced. A can of diet cola (or similar) will give
you around 42 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of hot tea usually has almost
I'm afraid eating chocolate can't compete with the caffeine power of a cup
of Joe. Even a 2-ounce chocolate bar has only 36 milligrams of caffeine -- a
drop in the bucket for hard-core espresso drinkers! Not that caffeine is the
main reason people eat chocolate, but be warned that getting your caffeine fix
in the form of chocolate is going to cost you in calories! Two ounces of
chocolate will run you approximately 270 calories and 16 grams of fat.
Here's a chart of some common caffeine sources and exactly how much of a
wallop each packs:
Approximate Caffeine Content (mg)
|Coffee, regular (1 cup)|
|Espresso (1/4 cup)|
|Cappuccino, regular (1 cup)|
|Latte, regular (1 cup)|
|Tea, brewed, hot (1 cup)|
|Nestea Iced Tea, Earl Grey (1 cup)|
|Cola soda, regular or diet (12 oz)|
|Mountain Dew (12 oz)|
|Chocolate, semisweet (1 oz)|
|Chocolate milk (1 cup)|
|Cocoa powder (1 tablespoon)|
Possible Caffeine Benefits
If you asked people what the biggest benefit to caffeine is, most would
probably list the lift in energy and mood. But there may be other health
benefits to caffeine, as well as to other components in coffee and tea. (All
you veteran java junkies should note that some of caffeine's effects may lessen
with long-term consumption.)
Here's what research has found out about some of the possible benefits of
coffee, tea, and caffeine:
- Some researchers suggest that the caffeine in coffee may increase the
body's sensitivity to insulin. (This is a good thing; insulin is a hormone made
by the body to control blood sugar.) In fact, a recent review of nine studies
on coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes supports the idea that
habitual coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of the disease.
Other research has found that some compounds in tea may increase insulin
activity in fat cells by as much as 15 times. Still, other research has
reported that caffeine impairs the metabolism of glucose (a type of sugar found
in carbohydrate foods) in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Chlorogenic acid, a compound in coffee that has antioxidant activity, may
improve the body's metabolism of glucose.
- Drinking four or more cups of coffee a day has been linked to a reduced
risk of colon cancer (compared with drinking no coffee at all). Studies in
animals have indicated that an antioxidant in coffee may protect against colon
- Studies looking at coffee and heart disease risk are all over the map. One
study found that drinking two or fewer cups of coffee a day reduced the chance
of a first heart attack or chest pain, while drinking more coffee appeared to
have the opposite effect. Other study results differed. Future research should
pay attention to the type of coffee used and the different brewing methods
because this affects which compounds show up in your cup. For example, filtered
coffee removes two compounds that are known to raise both total and LDL
"bad" cholesterol levels (the filters trap these compounds).
- Tea contains powerful antioxidants (polyphenols, which are in the flavonoid
phytochemical family) that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and
stroke. A Dutch study found that men who ate and drank the most flavonoids
(black tea was the major source) had a much lower risk of heart disease.
- Preliminary research suggests that the flavonoids in green tea may help
reduce cancer risk.
- More research is needed on this, but it has been suggested that green tea
may help boost metabolism and lower body fat.
- According to one study, older women (aged 65-76) who drank tea had higher
bone mineral density
measurements than women who did not drink tea. The authors propose that the
compounds in tea may improve bone mineral density and that drinking tea may
protect against osteoporosis. By comparison, another study noted that consuming
more than 300 mg of caffeine per day sped up bone loss in the spines of
postmenopausal women aged 65-77.
- While fruits and vegetables are
thought to be the richest sources of health-promoting antioxidants, a recent
study found that coffee is the main source from which most Americans get their