Caffeine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in a variety of foods, including chocolate and tea, which contain low to moderate amounts. A moderate amount of caffeine is around 250 milligrams a day, according to the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs. This is generally considered a safe amount and can contribute to alertness and the ability to focus, although too much can cause symptoms that range from nervousness and an inability to sleep to heart palpitations.
An 8-ounce cup of homemade cocoa contains 5 milligrams of caffeine, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is a very small amount. On the other hand, the same database reveals that 8 ounces of brewed black tea contains 47 milligrams of caffeine. This is still a moderate amount, but it could add up if you drank several cups a day. Decaffeinated black tea is available, and although it’s not 100-percent caffeine-free, it’s pretty close to that, at 2 milligrams per 8-ounce cup.
Sensitivity and Cautions
The 250-milligram acceptable level is an estimate, and people vary widely in their ability to tolerate caffeine, so what is OK for one person may result in symptoms for another. People with a variety of conditions, including ulcers, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia and osteoporosis, as well as women who are pregnant or lactating, may want to minimize or avoid caffeine. A variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can interact with caffeine in ways that change how the drug functions in the body, so it’s advisable to check with a physician before combining caffeine with any medication.
- AMAMED: Caffeine in the Diet
- Medline Plus: Caffeine in the Diet
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report; 01105, Milk, Chocolate Beverage, Hot Cocoa, Homemade
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report; 14355, Tea, Black, Brewed, Prepared with Tap Water
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report; 14352, Tea, Black, Brewed, Prepared With Tap Water, Decaffeinated
- FamilyDoctor.org: Drug Reactions