If you don't drink caffeine or just want to have less of it in the afternoon to ensure a good night's sleep, it's helpful to be able to identify foods with caffeine.
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While some sources are obvious, others might surprise you. Amounts vary broadly, even among similar foods and drinks with caffeine.
Caffeine affects people differently. Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is safe for most adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Taking in too much caffeine can lead to unpleasant side effects such as irritability, nervousness, stomach issues, increased heart rate, headache and difficulty sleeping.
Aim to stick within the recommended daily amount of caffeine, and have it during the day.
1. Coffee and Tea
Perhaps the most obvious, regular coffee and black tea reign supreme when we think about foods with caffeine. The amount varies, depending on the serving size and how strong you make your brew. Some people are surprised to learn that green and white teas also contain have, although usually a lesser amount compared to black tea.
Another potential surprise is the fact that decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. While an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee has about 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, a cup of decaf only has around 2 to 15 milligrams, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Specialty coffee and tea drinks also contain variable amounts of caffeine. For example, a Caffè Latte from Starbucks has about 150 milligrams of caffeine.
2. Soda and Other Soft Drinks
Soda is another source of caffeine, and some varieties have more than others. According to the FDA, a 12-ounce can of soda typically has 30 to 40 milligrams of caffeine. Pepper-flavored sodas and some brands of root beer, lemon-lime soda and fruit-flavored drink mixes have caffeine, as do most chocolate beverages.
Some bottled waters also contain caffeine, often in amounts similar to those of coffee or tea. And don't forget about coffee liqueurs, which are used in many mixed drinks.
3. Energy Drinks
Many other beverages, like energy drinks, also rely on a caffeine jolt. In fact, the caffeine in an energy drink can range anywhere from 40 to 250 mg per 8-ounces, per the FDA.
Keep in mind, these drinks will often have more than one serving per container, and if you drink the whole thing, you'll be taking in a lot of caffeine.
4. Chocolate (and Chocolate Products)
You might be surprised to learn that even chocolate milk has some caffeine, according to a March 2016 article in the journal Nutrients. Cocoa beans naturally contain caffeine, so all chocolate and chocolate-flavored foods have some — assuming they are made with cocoa.
As a rule of thumb, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine is has. For example, 1 ounce of milk chocolate typically has 6 milligrams of caffeine, but the same amount of dark chocolate has about 20 milligrams, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation.
Sweet treats like brownies, fudge, chocolate cookies, pudding and mousse have variable amounts of caffeine, depending on the amount of cocoa in them.
5. Dessert Foods
Chocolate-, mocha- and coffee-flavored ice cream and frozen yogurt typically have some caffeine, which is increased if you top your frozen treat with some chocolate sauce or hot fudge.
Coffee, mocha and chocolate yogurts might also be hiding caffeine. In general, coffee- and mocha-flavored dairy products and frozen treats have more caffeine than their chocolate-flavored relatives.
6. Caffeine-Fortified Foods
Some manufacturers add caffeine to food products in order to sell them. These caffeine-fortified foods are intended to perk you up without coffee. Energy and "power" bars are popular examples.
Other products that come in caffeine-fortified varieties include sunflower seeds, nuts, frozen waffles, snack chips, beef jerky — even marshmallows, jelly beans and gummy bears.
Caffeine is typically used to increase concentration and alertness, thanks to its effects on the central nervous system, according to January 2015 research in Advances in Nutrition. Caffeine is also used in medications to treat headaches, asthma and relieve pain.
While taking in moderate amounts of caffeine is generally safe, too much may have adverse side effects. Because caffeinated beverages such as colas, coffee and tea pull water from the body as a diuretic, these beverages can possibly lead to dehydration, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Taking in caffeine could be harmful for some people who are particularly sensitive to the stimulant, according to a May 2017 study in Frontiers in Psychiatry. People that are pregnant and lactating, children, adolescents, young adults and those with heart or mental health conditions should take caution with how much caffeine they're taking in.
Choose Healthier Caffeine Foods
Caffeine is the world's most used stimulant drug, according to a January 2015 study in Current Neuropharmacology. Caffeine occurs naturally in beverages and foods, and some of those foods have other health benefits. Dark chocolate and green tea are some examples of nutrient-dense caffeine foods.
A group of plant chemicals known as flavonoids is linked to controlling inflammation, which in turn may potentially reduce plaque buildup inside arteries, lessening the risk of heart disease, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Teas with caffeine are high in these compounds. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of flavonoids than black tea.
There are, however, more natural ways to improve energy even without caffeine, according to Harvard Health Publishing. You can eat foods for energy along with regular exercise and practices that manage stress levels such as yoga, meditation and tai chi.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends skipping caffeine-laced drinks such as coffee or cola that may lead to trouble sleeping in favor of iced tea with mint sprigs and/or lemon or cucumber slices.
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?"
- Nutrients: "Sources of Caffeine in Diets of US Children and Adults: Trends by Beverage Type and Purchase Location"
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "Everything You Need to Know About Caffeine"
- Starbucks: Caffè Latte
- Advances in Nutrition: Caffeine Intake from Food and Beverage Sources and Trends among Children and Adolescents in the United States
- Cleveland Clinic: Dehydration
- Current Neuropharmacology: Caffeine: Cognitive and Physical Performance Enhancer or Psychoactive Drug?
- Harvard Health Publishing: Drinking tea may benefit the heart and blood vessels