Caffeine is a substance that stimulates the central nervous system and makes people more alert and energetic. Although getting a small amount of caffeine is usually harmless, according to MedlinePlus, getting too much caffeine may cause restlessness, anxiety and irritability. Some people may not realize that caffeine is not only present in coffee or sugary soft drinks but also in cups of instant hot chocolate.
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The exact amount of caffeine in instant hot chocolate varies depending upon the specific brand, but 3 teaspoons or one envelope packet generally contains 5 milligrams of caffeine, according to the March of Dimes. Check the nutritional label or call the manufacturer of the hot chocolate if you would like to determine the exact amount of caffeine in a specific brand of hot chocolate.
The amount of caffeine in instant hot chocolate is significantly less than most other beverages, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A cup of tea may contain 40 to 120 mg of caffeine. A cup of generic instant coffee may contain 27 to 173 mg of caffeine, while a cup of generic brewed coffee may contain 102 to 200 mg of caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee contains 3 to 12 mg of caffeine. Some sodas, such as 7-Up and Mug Root Beer, contain no caffeine. Most other sodas, however, contain approximately 20 to 50 mg per cup. Energy drinks may contain 50 to 300 mg per cup. Water, juice and milk contain no caffeine and are good alternative beverages for people trying to limit caffeine intake.
Most people can safely consume 200 to 300 mg of caffeine each day without experiencing harmful effects, according to MayoClinic.com. Those who consume more than about 500 mg of caffeine a day may be more likely to experience restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, irritability, irregular or fast heartbeat, headaches, anxiety, nausea, gastrointestinal upset and muscle tremors.
Certain populations need to be particularly cautious about caffeine consumption. While research is ongoing, pregnant women who consume large amounts of caffeine each day may increase their risk of a miscarriage, pregnancy complications and may affect the newborn. The March of Dimes suggests that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg a day. Caffeine also may pass through breast milk during nursing, so breastfeeding mothers also may wish to limit their caffeine intake to prevent their infant from experiencing the effects of the caffeine. In addition, people who take certain medications or herbal supplements also need to limit their caffeine intake or avoid caffeine entirely. These include people taking ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, theophylline and ephedra, according to MayoClinic.com.
Caffeine does not affect everyone the same way. Your age, gender, smoking habits, body mass, drug or hormone use, stress level and overall health are just some of the factors that determine how susceptible you are to the effects of caffeine. It is important to cut back your consumption of caffeine if you experience undesirable reactions, regardless of the amount of caffeine you consume.