Everybody knows coffee contains caffeine. And soft drinks. And chocolate. But did you know that headache medicine contains caffeine? What about ice cream? You are probably ingesting more caffeine per day than you realize. Just because you limit yourself to two cups of coffee or one soda doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the consumption ends. The hidden caffeine that the average person ingests in any given day may not necessarily be a significant amount, but since everybody reacts to caffeine a little differently you may be getting just enough more than you and adversely affecting your health.
Finding the caffeine content on a bottle of soda is relatively easy. Finding out how much caffeine is in a candy bar more often than not requires a magnifying glass. Knowing how much caffeine you’re getting with that cup of coffee from either the convenience store or the Starbucks on the way to work is usually a guessing game.
Let’s start with the obvious: coffee. The actual caffeine content in any given cup of joe can vary wildly based on a number of things. These variables include the type of bean used, the method of roasting, how is was prepared, and how long it was brewed. Instant coffee contains less caffeine than the generic bag of coffee you buy at the grocery store and brew. The flavored stuff you buy in a tin at the grocery has less than the coffee in a bag, but slightly more than the instant. Obviously, the big honking cups you get at most coffee shops are going to have significantly more caffeine than what you drink in a small mug at home. And don’t be fooled by the idea of decaffeinated coffee. An average 8oz serving of decaf should still net you about 5mg of caffeine.
Sodas and sports drinks vary as well, perhaps even more so. Red Bull and Jolt lead the way, offering up a surge of over 70mg of caffeine each. And while Mountain Dew is famous for its hefty caffeine content, did you know that Pepsi One actually contains half a milligram more? The Dew’s fellow yellow/green competitors aren’t far behind and then you get down to the colas. But which do think has a higher caffeine content: Coca-Cola Classic or Diet Coke? Would you be surprised to find out it’s Diet Coke? By an impressive 10mg per serving? If you want to enjoy your soft drink while avoiding caffeine altogether, you can always try the popular brand name lemon-lime, orange or root beer sodas. Most of these are truly caffeine-free.
What about medicine? Most pain relievers contain caffeine. Excedrin leads the way, with 130mg of caffeine in two–that’s two–tablets. Compare that to Anacin with just 64mg per two tablets. The really odd thing here is that many times the headache for which people are taking this medicine is related in some way to caffeine.
Often these are people who suffer from migraines that are triggered by caffeine. And though they may be careful not to drink coffee or sodas, or eat chocolate, they still suffer unwittingly. How? By eating things that they don’t realize contains caffeine. While it might be a no-brainer to expect that coffee-flavored ice cream has caffeine, what about coffee-flavored yogurt? Or how about a SlimFast Cappuccino Delight Shake? All of those still no-brainers because of the connection to coffee? All right, fair enough. But did you know that menstrual relief medication as well as certain cold medications contain caffeine? Not to mention diet pills and even allergy medication.
Caffeine can be found in many unexpected places. While not everybody needs to be overly concerned with the so-called hidden caffeine, if you suffer migraines, are pregnant or are experiencing any other health problems that could be aggravated by increased caffeine consumption, it’s always worth reading the label.
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