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Where Do You Get Your Caffeine?

You probably already know that you can get caffeine from coffee -- about 150 milligrams per cup. But you might not know about some of the other places that caffeine lurks in your diet. Breakfast cereal? Bottled water? Yes! Read on to learn more.

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Green Tea

Serving size: 8 ounces

Caffeine: About 28 milligrams

Some people think that green tea is an herbal tea with no caffeine. It actually comes from the same leaves as black tea (the Camellia sinensis bush). It generally does have a bit less caffeine than black tea.

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Black Tea

Serving size: 8 ounces

Caffeine: About 47 milligrams

Skip your morning coffee and you may get groggy, tired, irritable, and even sick. If you want to cut back, do it slowly. That'll give your body a chance to get used to it. A cup of tea in the morning instead of coffee might be a good place to start. Even the strongest black teas have much less caffeine than coffee.

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Iced Tea

Serving size: 8 ounces

Caffeine: 25-48 milligrams

The size here is the same as the other teas. But keep in mind that when you eat out, iced tea generally comes in larger servings. That could mean that you could get more than 100 milligrams of caffeine. 

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Some Breakfast Cereal

Serving Size: 1 cup

Caffeine: 2 to 11 milligrams

The ones with caffeine often have chocolate flavor. Cocoa Puffs have around 2 milligrams per cup, while other cereals could have much more. And keep in mind that most people eat far more than the recommended serving size of 1 cup.

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Energy Bars and Gels

Serving size: Varies

Caffeine: Varies

There’s a wide range of caffeine amounts in energy bars, gels, and chews. Some have none. That’s why it’s always best to check the label. That’s where you’ll find the caffeine listed in milligrams along with other important information about calories, fat, and added sugar.

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Bottled Water

Serving size:  12 ounces

Caffeine:  60 milligrams

Some manufacturers add caffeine to bottled water, often along with flavors, and sometimes calories. The amount of caffeine and calories can vary widely, so read the label to know exactly what you’re drinking.

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Decaf Coffee

Serving size: 8 ounces

Caffeine: 2-15 milligrams

There are different methods for getting rid of caffeine in tea and coffee. The amount left depends on what you start with and how you get rid of it. U.S. government regulations say that for a company to call coffee decaffeinated, it must remove 97% of its caffeine. 
 

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Soda

Serving size: 12 ounces

Caffeine: 34-54 milligrams

This range is for both diet and regular sodas that have caffeine. Again, some serving sizes are much larger than the 12 ounces listed above. Want the soda without the caffeine? Usually, those that have no caffeine say so on the label.   

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Energy Drinks

Serving size: 16 ounces

Caffeine: 140 to 350 milligrams

Ingredients like the herb guarana can hide extra caffeine. The sugar or artificial sweeteners that your favorite brand might add to your beverage can make it easy to drink too much. Be careful.
 

 

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Caffeinated Gum

Serving size: 1 piece

Caffeine: 20-100 milligrams

It’s a good idea to do your homework on this. The range can be large and, like energy drinks, there can be hidden caffeine in ingredients like guarana. After meeting with the FDA, Wrigley, a major U.S. gum maker, decided not to sell gum with caffeine because of health concerns.   
 

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Dark Chocolate

Serving Size: 1 ounce

Caffeine: About 23 milligrams

Because chocolate naturally has caffeine, the FDA doesn't require makers to list how much theirs has, so it's tough to know. It’s not too much if you stick to one serving, which is about a third of a typical dark chocolate bar. More than that and the numbers can start to add up. 

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Hot Cocoa

Serving Size: 1 package

Caffeine: Up to 25 milligrams

Cocoa, like chocolate, has caffeine. The instant varieties from the grocery store usually have about 9 milligrams, but a leading coffee retailer serves hot chocolate with 25 milligrams of caffeine. 

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Ice Cream

Serving size: 4 ounces (1 scoop)

Caffeine:  5-125 milligrams

Typically, it’s just coffee and chocolate flavored ice creams that have the caffeine. But there are some makers that add it to all of their flavors. Check the label or ask your server to be sure what you're getting.   

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Over-the-Counter Pain Meds

Dose: 2 tablets

Caffeine: 130 milligrams

Some of these combine aspirin and acetaminophen. Both have caffeine. Though these meds can help ease pain, they also add caffeine to your diet. So you may need to cut back elsewhere. 
 

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Why Does It Matter?

Caffeine isn’t always a bad thing. In moderate amounts it can boost energy, memory, and athletic performance. It even seems to protect against certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. But too much can make you anxious and jittery. It can affect your sleep, digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. Children should be careful, as well. Too much caffeine can damage a child's developing heart, blood vessels, and nervous system. So make sure to keep track of how much you -- and your children -- get.

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How Much is Too Much?

Different people can handle different amounts. But there is a limit to what you should have every day, even if it doesn’t bother you. Up to about 400 milligrams a day is usually OK for adults as part of a healthy diet. Once you hit 600, you’re probably getting too much. For kids, the limits are much lower, ranging from 45 to 100 milligrams per day depending on their age. 
 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 06/22/2020 Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on June 22, 2020


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SOURCES:
BMC Public Health: “Depicted serving size: cereal packaging pictures exaggerate serving sizes and promote overserving.” Center for Science in the Public Interest: “Caffeine Chart.”
Consumer Reports: “Best Energy Bars: Crunchy, Chewy, Tasty ... and Healthy, Too?” “Caffeine levels in drinks, snacks, and drugs,” “Is Decaffeinated Coffee Bad for You?” “Is There More Caffeine in Espresso Than in Coffee?” “Are You Getting Too Much Caffeine?” “The Buzz on Death Wish Coffee.”
Excedrin.
Indiana University Bloomington: “IU study finds caffeine boosts enzyme that could protect against dementia.”
Journal of Caffeine Research: “Caffeine Withdrawal and Dependence: A Convenience Survey Among Addiction Professionals,” “Caffeine Content Labeling: A Missed Opportunity for Promoting Personal and Public Health.”
Mayo Clinic: “Caffeine: How much is too much?” “Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more.”
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Energy Drinks.”
National Sleep Foundation: “Besides coffee, these other foods, beverages, and medications may also cause you to stay awake.”
FDA: “FDA Consumer Advice on Pure Powdered Caffeine,” “Caffeine Intake By The U.S. Population,” “Added Caffeine in Gum.”
USDA: “Cocoa Puffs,” "Basic Report: 14210, Beverages, coffee, brewed, espresso, restaurant-prepared," "Basic Report:  19904, Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids," "Basic Report:  14355, Beverages, tea, black, brewed, prepared with tap water," "Basic Report:  14278, Beverages, tea, green, brewed, regular."
Winchester Hospital Health Library: "Guarana."
Pinnacle Health: "The Benefits & Risks of Caffeine Consumption in Kids."

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on June 22, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.