Coffee – Nectar of the Gods

Liquid Intelligence, The Elixir of Life, Nectar of the Gods.

Whatever you like to call it, most people will know what these names refer to.  The topic of coffee comes up a lot in conversation as a nutritionist and one of the most frequently asked questions is… How much coffee can I drink?  Like many nutritional topics there is much debate, confusion and misinformation out there about it so here is a breakdown to simplify things for you.

What is caffeine?

When people ask about coffee, they are in fact asking about caffeine which is a psychostimulant and affects our central nervous system.  It is also the most widely consumed stimulant in the world. Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, guarana plants and the kola nut and is added to drinks, food and medications.  It can also be made synthetically with many of the caffeinated drinks manufactured in Australia using synthetic caffeine.

The good and the bad

Caffeine has several effects on the body which can start as little as 15 minutes after ingestion and last as long as 6 hours.  The time taken for our body to break down and eliminate caffeine varies from person to person, a little like alcohol, so its effects also vary from person to person.  One of the most commonly known effects is that of a diuretic.  Caffeine stimulates the small intestine which causes the secretion of water and sodium and that makes us want to urinate more.  With regards to dehydrating our bodies, research shows 300mg caffeine per day has little effect on dehydration but the caffeinated drinks we consume help to contribute to our total water intake so that’s good news.

The not so good news is that individuals with anxiety are abnormally sensitive to caffeine and those suffering stress and anxiety tend to use caffeine as a pick me up.  As it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, interrupt your sleep, and cause nervousness and irritability it should be avoided in those suffering from anxiety or depressive disorders as these side effects can exacerbate the anxiety.

Caffeine and Kids

The main source of caffeine for children is in soft drinks and energy drinks.  These are often also loaded with sugar, sometimes as much as 16 teaspoons in a 600-ml bottle of cola.  Try spooning that in to a glass and eating it in one go!!  The effect of caffeine in adults has the same physiological effect in kids, only their bodies are still growing and the long-term effect of regular caffeine consumption on them is not yet known.  To play it safe, it is best to set a simple rule that there is no caffeine until they are 18 and if that seems too hard, then limit their intake as much as you can.

How much can I drink?

A safe amount of caffeine to drink daily is 400mg which is about 4 standard cups of coffee.  Pregnant women should limit their intake to 200mg per day and kids should not be having caffeine at all.  Anything over these amounts and you may start to see the negative effects of caffeine. Here is a breakdown of the caffeine content in a variety of food and drink products.  Be aware though, that the caffeine content may be variable due to factors such as brewing time and roasting methods.

• 250 ml Instant Coffee   60-80 mg
• 250 ml Cappuccino/Latte   113-282mg
• 1 Shot Espresso/Short Black   25-214 mg
• 250ml Red Bull    80 mg
• 375 ml Can Coke    36.4 mg
• 500 ml Iced Coffee   30-200mg
• 250 ml Black Tea   25-100mg
• 250ml Green Tea    30-50mg
• 100g Milk Chocolate   20mg

Written by Lisa Stegena, Nutritionist

Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programsprivate dietetic consultationschildren’s nutrition & dietetics,  school nutrition and  Corporate Wellness programs.  If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.

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