You Likely Didn't Know That These Foods and Drinks Contain Caffeine
Sure, you already know that coffee and energy drinks contain caffeine, but did you realize that the popular stimulant can be found in a variety of items that you eat and drink every day? According to our experts, caffeine hides in everything from breakfast cereal to bottled water, which means you might be consuming more than you realize. In moderation, caffeine can boost energy, memory, and focus, but too much of it can make you jittery, anxious, or nervous, says holistic nutritionist Miriam Amselem. "In excess, it can affect digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep," she explains. "Children need to be especially careful when it comes to caffeine because too much could damage a child's developing heart, nervous system, and blood vessels."
If you find that you've had too much caffeine, Amselem suggests drinking lots of water, since it can dehydrate you in large quantities. "If it has affected the digestive system, try some electrolytes. Fortunately, it isn't difficult to recover from a caffeine overload." Ahead, experts share how to spot the caffeine that might be lurking in certain corners of your diet.
You likely already knew that caffeine can be found in teas and coffees, but you may be surprised to know that it also hides in in teas that are promoted as calming. "Most people think that green tea is an herbal tea, but it isn't," explains Amselem. "Green tea comes from the same leaves as black tea—and has almost as much caffeine."
Any candy bar containing chocolate will deliver a bit of a jolt, says Dr. Nigma Talib, a naturopathic doctor. "That's because caffeine occurs naturally in cocoa beans, as does the compound theobromine, which also acts as a stimulant," she explains, noting that darker varieties actually pack the biggest punch. "Candy bars generally have less than 10 milligrams, but the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content."
Your morning cup of coffee may not be the only caffeine you're consuming at breakfast. According to Amselem, certain breakfast cereals (with chocolate flavors!) also contain caffeine. The same goes for energy bars. Yes, it's right in the name, but we often think these snacks boost energy via their blend of carbs and fruits, but some rely on caffeine to deliver that promised boost, says Amselem.
Who knew? Your bottled water may be hiding trace amounts of caffeine, Amselem shares, noting that some companies actually add the stimulant to their water. If you're trying to avoid it, be sure you're carefully reading labels and consider using this fact as another reason to avoid bottled water (which results in plastic waste) in the first place.
You likely already understand that cola is caffeinated, but they aren't the only sodas that contain the stimulant. "While a can of cola will cost you 29 milligrams of the jumpy stuff, other non-cola sodas contain just as much caffeine—if not more," explains Dr. Talib.
Though its name implies otherwise, you'll find this ingredient in decaffeinated coffee. "Decaf is similar in taste and appearance to regular coffee, but contains very little caffeine," Dr. Talib explains. "In 2007, Consumer Reports tested 36 cups of decaffeinated coffee from six coffee standbys, including Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Compared to the caffeine found in a regular cup (generally around 100 milligrams), the decaf samples had less—but some packed in over 20."