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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Java Juice

If you read the Diet Dish, you know I love my morning coffee. My favorite flavor is blueberry but it’s seasonal, so as I’m waiting for it to arrive on my market’s shelf, I’m making due with hazelnut (still very yummy). In any case, the question, “Is coffee bad for you?’ is a question I’m asked a lot (yesterday in fact). And my standard response is always the same, “Coffee is not bad in moderation.” So that begs the question – just what is moderation when it comes to coffee and caffeine?

Well, first, let me review the good news about caffeine. It temporarily increases your mental clarity, as well as muscular coordination. And research studies indicate that exercise endurance is improved by about 20-50% following the ingestion of between 3 and 13 mg of caffeine per kg body weight (this was in elite athletes who ran or cycled at a high intensity). That’s about 200-850 mg of caffeine for a 150 pound person. It’s also a source of antioxidants, those “body guards” I’m always talking about, and studies indicate that regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

In more good news, the newest hydration guidelines state that caffeinated beverages can count toward our fluid intake. That’s because after about 5 days of consistent caffeine ingestion, our bodies adjust, and the caffeine is no longer dehydrating (just be sure to be consistent, and of course stick with “moderate” amounts - see below). Finally, a study released just a few weeks ago in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that healthy women who regularly drank up to six cups of coffee per day were no more likely to develop high blood pressure over a 10 year period than those who drank none.

Now, despite all of the above, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. In some, just a small amount causes the jitters, rapid heart beat, an upset stomach, acid reflux, and a rise in blood pressure. And in the exact same study above it was found that women who drank coffee occasionally (anywhere from zero to three cups a day) had a slightly higher risk of developing high blood pressure than either the heavy coffee drinkers or the non coffee drinkers. Again, consistency seems to be key (just like everything in life huh?). So, I say pay attention to your body, and talk to your doctor about what’s right for you, especially if you’re taking any medications or have any current or past health problems.

According to the experts, a moderate level of caffeine is considered to be about 300 milligrams (mg) per day. And even if you’re not a coffee lover, you may still be taking in caffeine in other forms. Check out the list below to add up your intake, and consider the answers to two questions: 1) are you consistent? and 2) are you moderate?

Plain, brewed coffee, 8 ounces – 135 mg
Instant coffee, 8 ounces – 95 mg
Espresso, 1 ounce - 30-50 mg
Flavored coffee, 8 ounces - 25-100 mg
Decaffeinated, brewed coffee, 8 ounces – 5 mg
Black tea, 8 ounces - 40-70 mg
Green tea, 8 ounces - 25-40 mg
Regular cola, 12 ounce can – 35 mg
Mountain Dew, 12 ounce can – 54 mg
Chocolate cake, 1 slice - 20-30 mg

So, are you one of the 90% of Americans who takes in some sort of caffeine each day? Or are you a 10% er? How do you feel about caffeine (or how does caffeine make you feel)? Please share your thoughts.

Photo courtesy of iband.com
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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