By: Erin Kukura, MS, RD & Markayla Stroubakis, UCSD Dietetic Intern
Coffee is commonly used to help us wake up in the morning, or power through the day. Recent research has shown associations between coffee consumption and health benefits. A 2017 umbrella review concluded that coffee consumption was supported by significant associations with lower risk for all cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and total cancer and found no consistent evidence of harmful associations between coffee consumption and health outcomes when consumed within usual levels of intake.1 Although consuming coffee does not appear to be harmful, that doesn’t mean you have to start drinking it and it’s also important to consider how much is too much. Here is the lowdown on caffeine and a few things to be mindful of when it comes to your intake.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the official nutrition recommendations published by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledge that caffeine can be part of a healthy eating pattern (yay!), but say that 400 mg of caffeine is the upper amount that should be consumed. That equates to around 4 cups of brewed coffee a day.
To refresh your memory, here’s how much caffeine is in some common drinks…
- – 1 8-oz cup of coffee= ~95-165 mg
- – 1 shot espresso= ~17-64 mg
- – 1 8-oz cup of green tea= ~25-29 mg
- – 1 Energy Drink = ~27-164mg
As you can see, caffeine amounts vary greatly and are dependent on the coffee bean origin, brewing method and serving size of the drink. Caffeine can also be found in sodas, black teas and chocolate.
Although 400 mg is the safe upper amount that should be consumed, everyone has their own sensitivity to caffeine. It’s important to notice for yourself how much caffeine is too much as it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms including:
- – Increased anxiety
- – Digestive issues
- – Increased Heart Rate
- – Increased Blood Pressure
- – Insomnia & Fatigue
- – Nausea
Additionally, those with GERD or sleep issues may also want to avoid caffeine. Caffeine can worsen sleep because the half-life (or amount of time it takes for 1⁄2 of the caffeine to metabolize in your body) is on average 5 hours in healthy individuals. That means, if you drink a cup of coffee at 3pm, half of it is still in your system at 9pm and could be interfering with your ability to sleep.
I encourage individuals to look not only at how much caffeine their consuming, but also at what time of day and to find what works best for you and your body.
Coffee and Added Sweeteners:
Many of our favorite caffeinated drinks, such as the infamous pumpkin spice latte or flavored cold brews contain more sugar than expected.
Here are a few ways to reduce added sugar in your coffee drinks:
- – Try skipping the sugar entirely and only adding cream or drinking it black
- – Try decreasing the sugar in your drip coffee by half the amount
- – Try out a new drink that isn’t sweetened, such as an Americano or a plain latte
- – Ask for your drink to be made with half of the sweetener
And remember, it’s okay to have a sugary coffee drink in moderation! 🙂
If you would like to schedule an appt with the Erin Kukura, the Recreation Registered Dietitian go to:
https://recreation.ucsd.edu/wellness-services/nutrition/ or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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