According to "The Goodman and Gilman Manual of Pharmacology and Therapeutics," caffeine, which is a stimulant found in many foods, is the most widely-used psychoactive drug in the world. Although coffee has a high caffeine content, apples do not. Therefore, there is more caffeine in a cup of coffee than in an apple. There is more sugar in an apple than in coffee; however, this sugar has a relatively low glycemic index, and therefore won't have as rapid an onset of action as the sugar you add to your cup of coffee.
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Caffeine is found in a number of common foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, chocolate, soda and energy drinks. It's also found in most diet pills. People consume caffeine because it makes them feel more alert by stimulating a specific kind of molecule in your body known as an adenosine receptor.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Typical Cup of Coffee?
A standard 16-oz. cup of home-brewed coffee has about 266 mg of caffeine in it. In comparison, a typical cup of tea has about 50 to 100 mg of caffeine, while a typical bottled soft drink has about 100 to 200 mg. Although it would be hard to overdose on caffeine, it can be lethal, with death reported above a dose of 150 to 200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. One kilogram equals about 2.2 lbs., so that would be about 70 cups of coffee for a average-sized American man.
How Much Caffeine Is in an Apple?
Apples are a good source of many nutrients. For example, a typical small apple has 12 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber, 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, and trace amounts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and manganese. However, apples do not contain any caffeine.
The Origin of the Question
Googling "apples caffeine coffee" turns up several pages of links to sites where people have asked the question "Does an apple contain more caffeine than coffee?" The misconception seems to stem from the fact that apples have sugar in them -- an average small apple has about 13 g of it -- and that people are equating the energy boost they get from a cup of coffee with the energy boost they presumably get from eating an apple.
Apples, Coffee and Sugar Content
Based on the discussion above, a more appropriate question might be "Does an apple have more sugar than a typical cup of coffee?" Presuming you put one to two sugar packets in your typical cup of coffee, and that each sugar packet contains -- as most do -- about 4 g of sugar, the answer is yes, a typical apple contains more sugar than a typical cup of coffee. However, if you compare the glycemic index of apples and typical table sugar -- the glycemic index being a measurement of how quickly an ingested glucose load finds its way into your bloodstream, and hence a measure of how quickly you feel the effects of ingestion -- you'll see that apples, at 38 out of 100, are about half as strong as table sugar, at 68. So if you're looking for a quick energy kick, a cup of coffee is likely to get you there faster. However, an apple is probably your healthiest option.