Many people love a caffeine fix – whether it’s a morning cup of joe, an energy bar, a chocolate bar, a dietary supplement, or an energy drink. However, if you’re someone who relies on energy drinks, there’s a few things you should know about healthy caffeine consumption.
While caffeine in moderation can be a part of a healthy diet, there’s one big problem with energy drinks. Most are full of far more than just caffeine – including many ingredients that are damaging to your health. On top of that, the amount of caffeine in most energy drinks is far more than you really need. This can lead to that dreaded afternoon crash. If you need an energy boost, there are better ways to consume caffeine. Read on to learn more.
What Is Caffeine, And Is It Good Or Bad For Your Health?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in the leaves and fruits of certain plants. Its power lies in its effect on the central nervous system, where it increases alertness. With increased alertness comes feelings of energy, focus, and clarity.1
Again, in small doses, caffeine isn’t necessarily bad for your health. But in larger doses, its effects are increased. If you consume large amounts of caffeine, you may be left feeling anxious or unable to sleep. Worse still, you may develop a tolerance to high levels of caffeine, and then need larger doses to get any kind of effect.2
How Much Caffeine Is Okay?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees that caffeine can be part of a healthy diet for most people. But consuming too much caffeine could present a health concern. There’s also such a thing as caffeine sensitivity, where even small amounts of caffeine aren’t well-tolerated in some people.
For healthy adults, the FDA has determined that 400 mg a day (or about four standard cups of coffee) is usually safe. However, if you have any concerns, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a heart or other health issue, you should speak to your doctor first.3,4
The Truth About Energy Drinks And Caffeine
Most people associate caffeine with coffee and espresso. But caffeine can be found in many different products – both natural and manufactured.
Today, energy drinks dominate the market, offered as a convenient caffeine fix.
But here’s the truth about energy drinks ––
Though they’re often marketed as being “natural,” “herbal,” “vitamin-enriched,” or able to “fuel your destiny”… they are anything but good for you.
You see, energy drinks don’t just contain large amounts of caffeine.
They also contain huge amounts of sugar (often more than soft drinks), additives, and artificial sweeteners, all of which can cause damage to your health.5
There is also a lack of regulation on this type of drink, which means that just because you can buy one at the store, it may not be necessarily good for you to consume.
There is even more alarm about energy drink consumption among young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2011, almost 1,500 adolescents ages 12 to 17 were admitted to the emergency room for an energy drink-related emergency.6
While this type of emergency may be rare, more and more scientific evidence suggests that energy drinks can have “serious health effects” on children, teens, and young adults.7
Healthier Ways To Get Your Caffeine
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little caffeine hit – if you stay within your personal limits and are aware of added ingredients. The main concern for caffeine and heart health comes if you exceed those limits.
Again, research shows that a moderate amount of tea or coffee (about four cups a day) should be fine for most people. In fact, one small study found that a single cup of coffee may even support healthy blood vessel function.8
And of course there are better ways to consume caffeine than an energy drink.
Here are three caffeinated drinks that can be a part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.
1. Coffee – Sans Cream And Sugar
Black coffee isn’t unhealthy. But when you add unhealthy ingredients – like sugary creamers, artificial sweaters, and sugar, it becomes a potential health risk. Too much sugar can lead to high blood sugar levels, weight gain, decay of your tooth enamel, and a weakened immune system.9
So it may be time to play around with your morning staple. Instead of cream, consider switching to almond, oat, macadamia, or coconut milk in your coffee. If you absolutely need your coffee sweetened, switch to a natural artificial sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Be careful of store-bought iced coffees that are likely loaded with cream, sugar, and artificial flavorings. The healthiest alternative is to make your own at home with one of the milks above and a little stevia.
2. Black Tea, Green Tea, or White Tea
Like the coffee bean, tea also contains caffeine. But most teas contain less caffeine per serving than coffee.
For example, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee contains around 80 to 100 mg of caffeine.10 Caffeine levels in white, green, and black teas range from 14 to 61 mg per serving. Decaffeinated tea contains less than 12 mg per serving, while herbal tea is the only truly caffeine-free tea.11
So, switching to one of these caffeinated teas can decrease your caffeine load but still give you a bit of an energy boost. But as with coffee, you’ll also want to avoid cream and sugar in your tea (including iced tea).
The best thing about tea is that it’s full of healthy antioxidants. Green tea, in particular, is packed with protective polyphenols. These powerful antioxidants are an essential part of any healthy diet.12
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is naturally high in caffeine – around 86 mg caffeine per 100 g of chocolate.13 Try breaking off a piece of a dark chocolate bar for a mid afternoon pick me up (the darker, the healthier).
Or if you prefer to still drink your caffeine, try making yourself a delicious dark chocolate beverage, like hot chocolate. But instead of using a store bought hot coco mix – which contains added sugar – you can easily make it from scratch.
Place dark chocolate pieces in a saucepan over medium-low heat; then add milk and whisk until chocolate is melted and blended.
Healthy Caffeine Drinks For Healthier Energy
Caffeine doesn’t have to be your enemy if you drink it in moderation and carefully read ingredient labels. Ultimately, the best way to consume a caffeinated drink is to prepare it yourself. It may not always be the most convenient way, but it’s definitely the healthiest.
And again, if you have any pre-existing health issues, or any concerns, speak to your primary health provider before consuming caffeine.