From a shot of espresso to the creamiest of cappuccinos, I love indulging in good coffee. But overindulging could lead to health problems, especially for our hearts.
I love visiting a good coffee shop, and I drink my coffee as much for the flavor as for the caffeine boost. I really like the taste of black coffee and espresso!
Of course, I know that not everyone likes the bitter taste of coffee — and adding a little sweetness is certainly OK. But certain coffee add-ins can add more hidden calories than others. And how do coffee sweeteners affect weight loss?
I didn’t start drinking coffee till I was an adult—and when I did, I was hooked. It wasn’t so much the caffeine that I was after as much as the taste. I really love black coffee (and cappuccinos and lattes, too). In fact, it’s morning as I write this, and I’m sipping an espresso.
Because of my coffee love, I’m a fan of finding out as much as possible about how much caffeine is safe to consume.
How Much Caffeine Can You Have?
Your daily intake could be adding up quickly and from surprising sources. So how much caffeine is too much So how much caffeine is too much? I'm breaking down the latest research so you can sip with knowledge!
When I was in Milan recently, I had a morning routine that I loved. I’d wake up early (atypical for me!) and walk a few blocks to an adorable café called Riclette Tricolori. I’d order a cappuccino—which the barista would top with chocolate swirls and crushed almonds—and relax at a table, connecting to Wi-Fi and catching up on emails.
I loved those mornings, and I do my best to recreate them at home (minus the chocolate and almonds!) with my cappuccino maker and trips to local cafes. Now we can sip coffee with less guilt, as the latest dietary guidelines give most of us a free pass to drink up to 400 milligrams per day, the amount in three to five 8-ounce cups of coffee.
A study in Food and Chemical Toxicology summarized the results of research on potential adverse effects of caffeine on behavior, cardiovascular disease, bone status, reproduction, and development in healthy adults.
The findings: The same amount of caffeine recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a cap of 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, is in fact the safe amount for most healthy adults, although more research is needed on unhealthy and sensitive populations.
This comes out to roughly three to five cups of coffee daily—or one Keurig K-cup coffee, one 12-ounce cola, 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate, and a 12-ounce energy drink.
Coffee and tea make up between 70 and 90% of total caffeine intake for American adults. A cup of green or black tea has between 10 and 48 milligrams caffeine.
An instant cup of coffee has about 60 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a regular K-cup coffee has 120 milligrams of caffeine, and brewed coffee has about 160 milligrams. On the other hand, just one 16-ounce strong coffee from your favorite beanery can contain close to your day’s limit.
Not a fan of coffee? A 12-ounce cola offers about 30 milligrams of caffeine, an energy drink typically falls at between 100 and 200 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces, and a hot cocoa has about 5 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces (as does the same serving of decaf coffee). A 1.5-ounce serving of dark chocolate contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine.
The guidelines found that moderate caffeine intake of this amount is not linked with heightened risk of cancer or premature death from cardiovascular disease. Consider all sources of caffeine throughout the day, and cap coffee intake at three to five eight-ounce cups of coffee daily, depending on how you get your caffeine and what other caffeinated foods and drinks you’re consuming.
Those excluded from the free pass? People who haven’t yet begun a coffee habit and women who may become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Most experts recommend pregnant women consume less than 200 milligrams caffeine per day, but speak with a doctor for individualized advice. However, the Food and Chemical Toxicology study also recommended that healthy pregnant women take in no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine daily. So it's really up to you.
While these amounts are not connected with adverse health effects, too much caffeine could have consequences.
Could Your Coffee Habit Hurt Your Weight Loss?
I’m a big coffee fan. And I actually like the taste of coffee, so I’ll either drink my coffee black or in cappuccino or latte form—always with no added sugars or syrups.
You can have your cup of joe and stay on track with your weight loss!
When the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans came out, they recommended that people drinking coffee and tea account for the calories added in from cream, added sugars, and other additions.
A study in Public Health looked at large amounts of data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 to 2012 to see how add-ins to coffee and tea affect energy, sugar, and fat intake.
They found that about 68% of people who drink coffee do so with caloric add-ins—typically sugar, cream or cream substitute, half and half, or whole or low-fat milk. These mix-ins added an average of 74 calories over a 24-hour period to the coffee drinkers’ diets.
Over the course of a year, this equals over 27,000 calories, or about 8 pounds. And about 33 percent of people who drink tea add calorie-containing ingredients, such as sugar, honey, or whole or low-fat milk—adding an average of 43 calories to the daily diet. Over the course of a year, this equates to about 4 ½ pounds.
Like your coffee or tea on the sweeter side? Try these tips to add some sweetness without sugar or calories:
- Add a dash of cinnamon. Try this with your black coffee for a touch of sweet flavor with no added sugar and very few calories.
- Choose a naturally sweet-tasting tea. Many herbal and fruit-flavored teas, such as raspberry and hibiscus, are on the naturally sweet side—yet don’t contain added sugars.
- Stir in vanilla extract. A drop or two an add a naturally sweet flavor to your coffee or tea.
Why Energy Drinks are Dangerous
I drink my coffee more because I like the taste, and the caffeine jolt is secondary. So while I love my coffee, I don’t love energy drinks.
While the typical cup of coffee contains between 95 and 200 milligrams, an energy drink contains anywhere from 20 to 1,368 mg per cup. This upper end is dangerous and much more than the daily caffeine limit of 400 milligrams advised by the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
And when combined with alcohol, consuming energy drinks can be risky. Research shows that the combo increases blood-alcohol concentrations significantly more than when alcohol on its own.
A preliminary study, out in the International Journal of Cardiology, reveals another danger of the drinks. In the study, subjects regularly consuming energy drinks and having at least two in the 24-hour study period had a significantly increased frequency of heart palpitations. As well, people drinking alcohol along with the energy drinks experienced increased palpitations.
Study authors aren’t sure why this occurred, but too much caffeine may increase risk for heart troubles. And the study's researchers comment that energy drink ingredients such as ginseng are associated with cardiac arrhythmias when consumed in large quantities, along with caffeine.
Amy's Recipe to Try
Whip up a batch of energizing muffins: Matcha Green Tea Energy Muffins!
Want to wake up without feeling like you need a big mug of coffee? Matcha green tea is the perfect wake-up addition to these breakfast muffins. Plus, they're low in added sugar! How to use matcha powder?
This blog post was updated in May 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
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