Ah, caffeine! The tried-and-true stimulant helps most of us get into gear in the morning and power through never-ending afternoons at the office. (Here’s the best time to drink coffee for a maximum boost.) Coffee is the top dog in the world of energy, but there are plenty of other sources of caffeine for every diet and palate. We share the good, the bad and the ugly.
- A Sure Jolt
- Energizing, but Proceed with Caution
- Surprising Ways to Perk Up
- Protein Bars
- White Chocolate-Cappuccino Cookies
- Mocha Truffle Cheesecake
- Creamy Coffee Pie
- Sea Salt Mint White Mocha Cookies
- Coffee Lover’s Mini Cheesecakes
- Spiced Cappuccino Kiss Cookies
- Mocha Java Pie with Kahlua Cream
- Coffee Maple Spritz
- Mocha Nut Roll
- Mocha-Pecan Ice Cream Bonbons
- Coffee ‘n’ Cream Brownies
- Mocha Dessert Fondue
- Mocha Cookie Pretzels
- Toffee-Mocha Cream Torte
- Cappuccino Mousse Trifle
- Brownie Mocha Trifle
- Frozen Mocha Torte
- Mocha Truffles
- Mocha Meringue Sandwich Cookies
- Fudgy Layered Irish Mocha Brownies
- Easy Mocha Cream Pie
- Mocha-Hazelnut Glazed Angel Food Cake
- Cafe Mocha Pinwheels
- Coffee-Glazed Molasses Cookies
- Salted Caramel Cappuccino Cheesecake
- Molten Mocha Cake
- Cappuccino Cheesecake
- Mocha Hazelnut Torte
- Coffee Cream Tortilla Cups
- Mocha Yule Log
- Coffee Shortbread
- Frozen Mocha Marbled Loaf
- 6 Big Sources of Caffeine That Aren’t Coffee
- Other sources of caffeine
- The Healthiest Caffeine Options to Get You Through Your Day
- Sources of caffeine
- 7 Natural Caffeine Sources That Aren’t Coffee
- 4 Healthy Caffeine Fixes—No Coffee or Soda Required
- Green Tea
- Fortified Coconut Water
- Dark Chocolate
- Surprising Foods That Contain Caffeine
- Besides coffee, these other foods, beverages, and medications may also cause you to stay awake.
- WATCH NEXT: A History of Starbucks’ Christmas Cups
- 15 Healthy and Creative Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix
- The Best Energy Drinks in 2019 (And Which to Avoid)
- The 10 best energy drinks, ranked from good to great.
- Best: Just Chill Beverages
- Best: Tea Riot
- Best: V8+ Energy
- Best: Clean Cause Sparkling Energy Water
- Best: Celsius Naturals
- Best: Bai Bubbles Sparkling Antioxidant Infusion
- Best: MatchaBar Hustle Unsweetened
- Best: RUNA Energy Drinks
- Best: Hiball Sparkling Energy Water
- Best: Zevia Energy
- The 4 worst energy drinks for your health, ranked from bad to absolute worst.
- Worst: Monster
- Worst: Red Bull
- Worst: Rockstar
- Worst: Full Throttle
A Sure Jolt
Coffee is most people’s go-to for a burst of energy, and for good reason-a single cup contains about 100mg or more of caffeine, depending on the roast. A good rule of thumb is the lighter the roast, the more caffeine it’ll contain. Some iced coffees are highly concentrated, too. Learn how to make your own cold brew here.
Good to know: Coffee takes about 20 minutes to take effect. Try to keep tabs on how much coffee you’re drinking. If you knock back more than four cups a day and start to feel jittery or have trouble sleeping, consider switching to half-caf or decaf in the afternoons and evenings.
Coffee’s concentrated cousin, espresso, offers nearly the same kick with far less liquid. A single ounce contains about 50mg of the energizing substance. Espresso’s complex flavor, often less bitter, can be a little easier on the palate than black coffee. If flavor’s what you’re looking for, you might be able to enjoy espresso without loading up on cream and sugar. Diet bonus!
Good to know: It’s easy to turn down a late night coffee drink, but be careful when eating late-night desserts made with the beans. A post-dinner espresso cookie may melt in your mouth, but the beans’ caffeine might keep you up late.
Energizing, but Proceed with Caution
Lattes and Cappuccinos
These sugary coffee shop delights bundle caffeine with a whole lot of flavor. (Make your own version at home.) Along with frothy milk and flavored syrups, the drinks are made with multiple shots of espresso. Most baristas will fit two shots of espresso into your large latte.
Good to know: With great flavor comes great responsibility-these tasty drinks are usually rich in sugar, so don’t make them your only source of caffeine.
A spot of tea can put some pep in your step without giving you the caffeine jitters. A cup of black or green tea typically contains around 30mg of caffeine, so you can sip throughout the day without worrying about overstimulation. A notable exception to this rule is chai tea, which can pack just as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Good to know: With the varieties of teas and blends available, there’s a tea to suit just about any palate. Many teas are also packed with antioxidants, which may help the body protect itself against cell damage and disease. Most herbal teas have no caffeine but might offer other benefits.
A refreshing can of pop can help get you through groggy afternoons with a decent dose of caffeine—a typical cola contains nearly 30mg. But take care to read the labels: Brands like Pepsi Zero Sugar pack a whopping 69mg per can.
Good to know: Try not to drink too much soda. The drink can stop diets in their tracks and contribute to health problems. Both the sugars and phosphoric acid in soda can cause trouble for otherwise healthy teeth and bones. Be careful about mixing soda with alcohol, as well. Caffeine can mask alcohol’s intoxicating effect, and sugar can make it easy to drink too much.
If you need to cut back on soda, try these infused water ideas.
With as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and a sweet, sugary taste to boot, energy drinks are the darling of convenience stores. In addition to boosting energy, some claim to make it easier to focus on tasks. Be skeptical of health claims like this.
Good to know: A lot of energy drinks get their caffeine from the seeds of guarana, a South American climbing plant. Some energy drink ingredients can cause the jitters, energy crashes and other side effects. Stay away if you’re pregnant!
Surprising Ways to Perk Up
Believe it or not, dark chocolate can give you a slight energy boost. Cocoa beans contain caffeine as well, and a single bar of semisweet chocolate can contain around 20mg. Here are 40 ways to get your dark chocolate fix.
Good to know: When shopping for dark chocolate, make sure it’s at least 70% cacao to get the most bang for your buck. Milk chocolate just doesn’t pack the same wallop. Like tea, dark chocolate is also chock-full of antioxidants and has other benefits.
Along with satisfying tummies between lunch and dinner, some protein bars can fight the 3 p.m. blues with a zap of caffeine. Some popular brands contain up to 50mg per bar.
Good to know: Even if there’s no caffeine added, protein bars with chocolate, green tea, or coffee extract will contain natural levels of the stimulant.
(Here are even more surprising sources of caffeine.)
Now that you’re all hyped up on our caffeine-packed facts, dish them out to your friends and family-along with a slice of coffee-enhanced dessert.
Get Your Coffee Fix 1 / 32
White Chocolate-Cappuccino Cookies
These adorable cookies shaped like coffee cups don’t last long with my friends and family. For an even richer flavor, I use a mocha latte coffee mix. —Nancy Sousley, Lafayette, Indiana Get Recipe
Mocha Truffle Cheesecake
I went through a phase when I couldn’t get enough cheesecake or coffee, so I created this rich dessert. Its brownie-like crust and creamy mocha layer really hit the spot. It’s ideal for get-togethers because it can be made in advance. —Shannon Dormady, Great Falls, Montana Get Recipe
Creamy Coffee Pie
It’s easy to stir mini marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and crushed sandwich cookies into coffee ice cream to create this irresistible frozen dessert. —Cherron Nagel, Columbus, Ohio Get Recipe
Sea Salt Mint White Mocha Cookies
This recipe came from my mom’s Grandma Alice, who taught her how to bake. Grandma Alice always had a fresh plate of warm cookies on her counter. I learned some of her recipes by heart as a child, and I’ve been making these since high school. They taste like Christmas.—Kristin Bowers, Rancho Palos Verdes, California Get Recipe
Coffee Lover’s Mini Cheesecakes
Everyone in my family knows how much I adore cheesecake. Anyone who wants one made comes to me because they know I have a lot of tried and tested recipes. But I was getting bored with the standard chocolate or cherry. And then I had an idea—mocha cheesecake! After lots of experiments, I came up with this recipe. It’s really good, even if I do say so myself. —Holly Sharp, Warren, Ontario Get Recipe
Spiced Cappuccino Kiss Cookies
This recipe combines two of my favorite flavors: coffee and cinnamon. You can always find them on my holiday treat trays. —Cynthia Messenger, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina Get Recipe
Mocha Java Pie with Kahlua Cream
I’m a big coffee drinker and love the iced and frozen versions, too. This pie was my way of incorporating those flavors into a dessert. —Becky McClaflin, Blanchard, Oklahoma Get Recipe
Coffee Maple Spritz
I like spritz cookies because they’re easier to make than rolled cutouts but I can still be creative with different shapes and sizes. Feel free to substitute vanilla or rum extract for the maple flavoring. —Dierdre Cox, Kansas City, Missouri Get Recipe
Mocha Nut Roll
I’ve enjoyed this dessert several times at a friend’s house, and it never ceases to be delightful. The tender, impressive cake is the ultimate indulgence for anyone who loves coffee or chocolate!—Susan Bettinger, Battle Creek, Michigan Get Recipe
Mocha-Pecan Ice Cream Bonbons
These bite-size bonbons may sound tricky to make, but you’ll find that fashioning them is a breeze. What’s more, our cooking experts advise that you keep this recipe handy when you serve them—as soon as folks sample the treats, they’ll be asking how to make them!—Taste of Home Test Kitchen Get Recipe
Coffee ‘n’ Cream Brownies
A friend gave me the recipe for these rich cakelike brownies topped with a creamy coffee-enhanced filling and a chocolate glaze. I like to garnish each square with a coffee bean. —Michelle Tiemstra, Lacombe, Alberta Get Recipe
Mocha Dessert Fondue
I love to entertain, but with a full-time job, a 2-year-old and another one on the way, I don’t have a lot of time. This is one of my favorite quick ways to have a memorable time with others. There’s nothing like catching up with friends as we gather around a fondue pot! —Tonya Vowels, Vine Grove, Kentucky Get Recipe
Mocha Cookie Pretzels
Looking for something special to bake up for the holidays? Try these elegant mocha-frosted pretzels. They’re great with coffee and make an eye-catching addition to any cookie platter. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Get Recipe
Toffee-Mocha Cream Torte
When you really want to impress someone, this scrumptious torte is just the thing to make! Instant coffee granules give the moist chocolate cake a mild mocha flavor, while the fluffy whipped cream layers, blended with brown sugar and crunchy toffee bits, are deliciously rich. —Lynn Rogers, Richfield, North Carolina Get Recipe
Cappuccino Mousse Trifle
“This is the easiest trifle I’ve ever made, yet it looks like I spent time on it,” says Tracy Bergland, Prior Lake, Minnesota. “I like to pipe whipped topping around the edge of the bowl, grate chocolate in the center and sprinkle with cinnamon. It gets rave reviews.” Get Recipe
Brownie Mocha Trifle
By using instant pudding and a convenient box of brownie mix, there’s nothing to the preparation. The result is moist and chewy. And the layers look so pretty spooned into a glass trifle bowl. —Louise Fauth, Foremost, Alberta Get Recipe
Frozen Mocha Torte
For an easy, make-ahead dessert that’s elegant and luscious, try this recipe. The perfect blend of mocha and chocolate is in each cool, refreshing slice. —Aelita Kivirist, Glenview, Illinois Get Recipe
Nothing compares to the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of these truffles…or to the simplicity of the recipe. Whenever I make them for my family or friends, they’re quickly devoured. No one has to know how easy they are to prepare! —Stacy Abell, Olathe, Kansas Get Recipe
Mocha Meringue Sandwich Cookies
These crisp, chewy cookies can be made any size you choose. They’re also great with a variety of fillings—try making them with fruit preserves. —Marie Valdes, Brandon, FL Get Recipe
Fudgy Layered Irish Mocha Brownies
My husband and I are big fans of Irish cream, so I wanted to incorporate it into a brownie. I started with my mom’s brownie recipe, then added frosting and ganache. This decadent recipe is the result, and we are really enjoying them! —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin Get Recipe
Easy Mocha Cream Pie
This chocolate crust is excellent with a cool no-bake mocha filling. — Gina Nistico, Taste of Home Food Editor Get Recipe
Mocha-Hazelnut Glazed Angel Food Cake
I love this recipe because it combines three of my favorite flavors: coffee, hazelnuts and cherries. —Joan Pecsek, Chesapeake, Virginia Get Recipe
Cafe Mocha Pinwheels
When my daughter was young, I made these cookies for school bake sales. Preschoolers enjoy rolling up the dough, and older kids can get in on all the steps.—Dion Frischer, Ann Arbor, Michigan Get Recipe
Coffee-Glazed Molasses Cookies
I dreamed up these molasses cookies while sipping coffee and watching snow fall. The aroma while the cookies bake reaches all corners of the house. —Faith Ford, Big Lake, Minnesota Get Recipe
Salted Caramel Cappuccino Cheesecake
After spending years living in Seattle, I’ve become a coffee junkie! I had to relocate across the country for a time, so I created this cheesecake with the flavors of salted caramel, coffee and espresso. It lifted me up on days when I felt blue about leaving one of the world’s great coffee destinations. —Julie Merriman, Seattle, Washington Get Recipe
Molten Mocha Cake
When I first made my decadent slow-cooker chocolate cake, my husband’s and daughter’s expressions said it all. She says it’s one of her favorites. Later, I brought one of these to our next-door neighbors. Their teenage son, who answered the door, ate the whole thing without telling anyone else about it! —Aimee Fortney, Fairview, Tennessee Get Recipe
Instead of pouring the decadent ganache over the top of this coffee-flavored cheesecake, I use most of it to cover the chocolate crust. —Linda Stemen, Monroeville, Indiana Get Recipe
Mocha Hazelnut Torte
I make this cake on birthdays and other special occasions because it looks and tastes so amazing. The combination of mild hazelnut and coffee flavors is impossible to resist. —Christina Pope, Speedway, Indiana Get Recipe
Coffee Cream Tortilla Cups
Here’s a special dessert for two. Crispy tortilla bowls hold creamy coffee-flavored pudding topped with a mix of colorful fresh berries. —Amber Zurbrugg, Alliance, Ohio Get Recipe
Mocha Yule Log
This eye-catching dessert is guaranteed to delight holiday dinner guests. Chocolate lovers will lick their lips over the yummy cocoa cake, mocha filling and frosting. For a festive touch, I garnish the log with marzipan holly leaves and berries. —Jenny Hughson, Mitchell, Nebraska Get Recipe
You’ll be remembered for these cookies when you serve them for a morning coffee or at a gathering. Melted chips drizzled on top make them look fancy, but they’re so easy to make. —Dixie Terry, Goreville, Illinois Get Recipe
Frozen Mocha Marbled Loaf
This showstopping marbled dessert seems fancy, but it’s really simple to prepare ahead of time and pop in the freezer. Frosty slices have a creamy blend of chocolate and coffee that’s delightful anytime of year. —Cheryl Martinetto, Grand Rapids, Minnesota Get Recipe
6 Big Sources of Caffeine That Aren’t Coffee
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Do you find that caffeine makes your Crohn’s disease worse? If you answered with a quick yes, you’re not alone. About 54 percent of people with inflammatory bowel disease believe that coffee worsens their symptoms, according to results of a questionnaire published in the Nutrition Journal in August 2015.
In general, people with Crohn’s disease aren’t necessarily more sensitive to caffeine than others — the stimulant can bother anyone. However, if you experience the symptom of diarrhea, it could get worse when you consume caffeine, explains Bret Lashner, MD, director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the gastroenterology department at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Caffeine can increase acid production in the stomach, which irritates the gastrointestinal tract, explains Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
When it comes to consuming caffeine, it may not be all or nothing, though. Some people may be able to enjoy their morning java, while others can’t. “How much one can tolerate is highly individualized,” Angelone says. “Two cups of caffeinated coffee may be fine for one person with Crohn’s disease but may lead to diarrhea for another.”
One way to test your tolerance is to start by sipping just a bit of decaf coffee, which retains a little caffeine, Angelone says. An average-sized cup of roasted ground coffee contains about 85 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, according to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee. Decaffeinated coffee has about 3 mg per cup.
If you don’t have a negative reaction to the decaf, increase the amount and, if it’s still not a problem, add in a little caffeinated coffee and see how you react. Stress can affect your tolerance level too, so factor that in when determining your limit, Angelone adds.
If caffeine does bother you, it’s also important to know that it can be found in more foods and beverages than just coffee. Here are some of the top sources.
1. Tea: Dry tea leaves have more caffeine than an equal amount (in weight) of ground coffee. However, when brewed, tea typically has less caffeine than a cup of coffee. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tea beverages, including bottled versions and fancy drinks from coffee shops, could have anywhere from 15 mg to 95 mg per serving. Keep in mind that the very popular green tea is also caffeinated.
2. Chocolate: As natural sources of caffeine, foods that contain cacao beans (anything from cocoa powder to chocolate candy) may also trigger your symptoms. Chocolate drinks, like hot chocolate and even chocolate-containing almond milk, have anywhere from 2 mg to 12 mg in an 8-ounce (oz) size, according to the CSPI. Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate, as do more cacao solids. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 oz of dark chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cacao solids has on average 23 mg of caffeine. One ounce of dark chocolate with 45 to 59 percent cacao solids has 12 mg.
3. Soda: These beverages can contain 22 mg to 69 mg of caffeine per 12 oz serving — 71 mg is the limit imposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Most are colas and other dark-colored sodas, but some clear ones have caffeine as well.
4. Energy drinks: These pick-me-up beverages depend on high amounts of caffeine to give you a jolt. Caffeine in an 8 oz serving averages 80 mg, but some energy drinks can contain twice that amount, according to the CSPI.
5. Protein bars: If the ingredients include coffee or chocolate, there’s probably some caffeine as well. Read labels carefully; bars and chews with the word “energy” in their name are also likely sources of caffeine, according to the CSPI.
6. Sweet dairy products: Coffee and chocolate ice creams, yogurts, puddings, and traditional sweets will have some amount of caffeine, but it may be as little as 2 mg and generally not more than 30 mg per serving. Some “energy” sweets, however, register 150 mg of caffeine.
Other sources of caffeine
Some over-the-counter pain relievers include caffeine in their formulas, the CPSI states, so read labels carefully. And be on the lookout for products that contain other stimulating ingredients, says Angelone, including:
- Yerba mate
If you’re looking for a caffeinated beverage substitute, try herbal tea, Angelone suggests. You could also sip a hot drink made from roasted grains such as chicory, barley, malt barley, or rye. To eliminate soda, simply replace it with carbonated water, she says.
The Healthiest Caffeine Options to Get You Through Your Day
Caffeine is everything to some people. They need the smell of coffee to get them out of bed in the morning; they need to hear the pop of that first Red Bull of the day to really get them going. For others, the jittery side effect and crash that caffeinated drinks can bring on is a total turn off and can actually slow them down throughout their day. Womp womp.
There are some solid options for when you need a boost without the crash, though, and they’re way healthier than a latte, too. We got insight into healthy caffeinated alternatives from Lauren Purvis, founder + CEO (and girl boss) of the green tea and matcha emporium Mizuba Tea Company, Jordan Schuster, founder + CEO of the edible espresso brand Il Morso and Andy Hayes, founder + creator of the monthly tea subscription service Plum Deluxe. Note that it’s important to understand your body and how it reacts to caffeine before you totally go cold turkey and quit coffee (you could get really bad headaches) or before you commit to a trying a new caffeinated drink. That said, check out the expert-approved list below.
1. Kombucha: If you want a subtle energy boost, lots of health benefits and billions of probiotics workin’ their magic on your mind + body, guzzle down some Kombucha. The drink goes through a fermentation process, which results in a teensy bit of alcohol in the drink, which isn’t to be confused with boozy Kombucha punch ;). This stuff comes in a bunch of flavors and can be made organically, too. Taking a more natural approach to caffeine, Kombucha will give you a bit of a pep in your step and can wake you up in the morning thanks to its slightly fizzy (in a good way!) taste. Kombucha is also great if you have digestion issues after sitting all day long (office, lecture, whatever) because those probiotics coat your stomach which aids in digestion. What’s even better about Kombucha is that you can DIY your own — so you *really* have no excuse not to try it.
2. Matcha: Matcha is a great alternative for coffee if you are still really looking for that energy boost without the jitters and headaches. Matcha is 100% pure tea leaves ground into a super fine powder — it’s different from green tea, for example, because you actually are consuming the entire tea leaf with matcha. Lauren explained that it gives you sustained, controlled energy (so you are focused throughout the day) and kicks up one’s metabolism. Those mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon slumps can be tackled head-on by adding some matcha in yo’ life! It has a slightly sweet taste that can pair well with a lot of things. There are a bunch of matcha recipes you can make so you can get a little energy boost from unexpected food items, like oatmeal (or chocolate matcha truffles, NBD) — Lauren actually swears by matcha oatmeal as the perfect meal to start her day. Starbucks has matcha powder you can add to any drink (though I think it’s great shaken with just water) so next time you’re about to order a PSL (now that you know when they’ll be avail) at the ‘Bux, give this powerful green powder a try.
3. Tea: Tea is like a one-stop-shop when it comes to why you should drink it up: you not only get a healthy, manageable dose of caffeine (in most teas) but you also get vitamins, trace minerals and tons of antioxidants, Andy said. Since tea is made of natural ingredients, it’s a healthy option and easy to make your own! There’s something nurturing about pouring yourself a steaming hot beverage, and tea takes that a step further by adding in the sensory experience of SMELL which can wake you up in itself. “Today’s fast-paced culture doesn’t allow us to be mindful, and making yourself a cup of tea (or your own blend of iced tea) allows you to do just that.” If you are super into tea, Plum Deluxe offers a Birchbox-like monthly subscription box for tea so you can find a flavor that invigorates you.
4. Edible energy: Instead of pouring up, why not chow down on your caffeine? From energy-giving snack bars to *cookies* to skinny pumpkin energy bites, there are SO many ways you can put food in your body while also waking it up (including drinking apple cider vinegar to get extra pep!). On that note, we never said espresso couldn’t be enjoyed and consumed in a healthy way; it’s just about controlling your intake and not going overboard, which is easy to do, so why not eat it? Jordan explained that coffee can make us jittery because of complex phytocompounds which stimulate our central nervous systems while lessening feelings of fatigue. It’s all good at first, until you over do it and feel like crap. This is where *eating* your caffeine comes in: “Experimenting with foods that offer stimulation and other physical enhancements can be helpful,” Jordan told us. Espresso beans are a fun alternative to a cup of joe when you’re in a rush but still need a pick-me-up — the edible bites actually offer metered caffeine, so that the measured caffeine intake is more controlled.
Will you consider any of these healthy caffeine options? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
Sources of caffeine
Caffeine is an alkaloid occurring naturally in some 60 plant species, of which cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans are the most well-known. Other natural sources of caffeine include yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly1. Caffeine is added to many popular soft drinks, and is also a component of a number of pharmacological preparations and over-the-counter medicines including analgesics, diet-aids, and cold/flu remedies.
Typical amounts in food and beverages
The amount of caffeine consumed in beverages varies enormously and is dependent, for example, on the strength of the drink, and the amount consumed with cup size playing a key role. Coffea canephora (robusta) is known to contain more caffeine than Coffea Arabica (arabica)1-3. However, as a basic guideline an average sized cup of soluble coffee contains approximately 65mg caffeine, whilst a cup of roast and ground coffee contains around 85mg. A 30ml espresso cup contains around 50-60mg caffeine. Finally, a can of cola or a cup of tea contains 25-45mg caffeine. Tea actually contains more caffeine than coffee on a dry weight basis, but a smaller weight of tea is generally used to prepare a brew. Decaffeinated coffee generally provides less than 3mg caffeine per cup. Cocoa and chocolate contain much smaller amounts of caffeine.
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7 Natural Caffeine Sources That Aren’t Coffee
When it comes to caffeine, many of us have a dependent relationship with our daily cup of Joe. Though we may not want to admit it, it can be tough to get through the day without some coffee or espresso. But what might be surprising is that there are a wide variety of other natural sources of caffeine.
While coffee is by far the most ubiquitous source of caffeine in our society, it’s good to diversify the source of your daily pick-me-up. Many commercial coffees have lots of sugar added to them, but there are plenty of organic, healthier sources of caffeine.
The following seven natural ways to get your fix will bring you new ways to get your buzz on — without any excess calories!
Yerba mate (a South American beverage) is becoming more popular in many different health circles. The reason? It packs the health benefits of tea, along with the brain boost of your favorite chocolate. Packing a slightly smaller dose of caffeine (though this can vary), yerba mate also has over 20 vitamins and minerals, over 10 amino acids, and a large dose of antioxidants. Another benefit to yerba mate that is undoubtedly lacking in coffee is its ability to help aid in digestion. South American natives have used yerba mate for this very purpose for centuries. If you’re looking to try some yerba mate, the beverage company Guayaki makes a great organic version that’s packed with a nice punch of caffeine.
If you want the flavor of tea with the highest dose of caffeine — look no further. Black tea can contain up to 80 mg of caffeine (almost equal to a cup of coffee). What most people don’t know is that drinking black tea on a regular basis may help lower one’s risk of diabetes. One study found that those consuming this tea regularly had a 70% lower chance of developing diabetes. If you’re looking to try some black tea, make sure it is organically sourced, and preferably fair-trade certified.
Dark chocolate is a delightful addition to a healthy diet, and unbeknownst to most, contains a small punch of caffeine (around 10 mg). However, chocolate also contains theobromine and theophylline, which are mild stimulants. The darker the chocolate, the healthier it likely is. When it comes to buying dark chocolate, look for a bar that is around 70% cocoa (or more), fair trade, organically grown, and GMO free.
Most commonly sold as a supplement, guarana berry (or extract) can also be made into a tea. What most people do not realize is that guarana contains 200% more caffeine than coffee beans, making it a nice source of energy for those who may have missed a good night’s sleep. With links to improved energy, alertness and mood, guarana is added to many beverages around the world. Many athletes swear by the increased focus and energy levels that guarana can provide. That being said, this is not a great item to consume after lunchtime, as the caffeine buzz may be too much and may hinder your upcoming night’s sleep.
The health world has fallen in love with matcha tea, and for good reason. Boasting a large amount of antioxidants (some claim even more than green tea) matcha also has a nice boost of caffeine, weighing in at around 30 mg (about ⅓ the dose of a cup of coffee). Matcha tea may also help with your memory and focus, as well as burning calories and helping your body to detoxify. Matcha tea can also be consumed at night (due to its lower caffeine content), making it very versatile for drinking at any time of the day.
Coming from a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), kombucha is a fermented tea that can vary in sweetness and tartness. You can purchase this cloudy drink at most health stores, but you may want to try making your own kombucha, to vary the flavor possibilities. Typically kombucha contains just enough caffeine to get you to notice — far less than a standard cup of coffee.
Loose-Leaf Green Tea
Still perhaps the best alternative to coffee, green tea packs about 1/3 the amount of caffeine, compared to a cup of coffee. But green tea has many hidden benefits, like the polyphenol EGCG. In addition, green tea has an amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid helps to increase the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Why is this important? Because GABA has strong anti-anxiety effects, meaning that you get the buzz of coffee, but with the calm focus of a Zen monk. L-theanine also helps to increase dopamine and alpha waves in the brain. Not too shabby. Make sure you grab a fair-trade, organic green tea, if you’re looking to get away from your daily cup of coffee.
Caffeine, we love you
There are few things better than a nice weekend morning, introduced by the warm buzz of caffeine. Whether you’re drinking yerba mate, green tea, munching on some dark chocolate, or brewing your own kombucha — we all need a little pick-me-up. So mix it up when it comes to caffeine choices — and enjoy!
About the Author: This article was contributed by PaleoHacks, a top source for amazing Paleo recipes, fitness tips, and wellness advice to help you live life to the fullest.
Early to Rise
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Coffee is still the top choice for fulfilling caffeine cravings, but a new study suggests that Americans’ caffeine sources may be shifting.
Researchers found that soft drinks have surpassed tea as the second leading source of caffeine for adult men and women while remaining the top source of caffeine for children.
With the proliferation of coffee shops on every corner, it’s no surprise that the study shows that more Americans of all ages are getting a caffeine buzz, with nearly 90 percent of adults and 76 percent of children getting caffeinated on a daily basis.
But researchers also suggest that the strength of that buzz may be waning as the average daily intake of caffeine per person is on the decline.
In the study, which appears in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers analyzed common sources of caffeine in the diet of a representative sample of the U.S. population that was surveyed from 1994 to 1996 and in 1998.
Caffeine is found in beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks, but it is also found in lesser amounts in some foods like chocolate. Other sources of caffeine, such as energy beverages, caffeinated water, herbal supplements, and medications were not included in this study.
Researchers found 87 percent of adults and 76 percent of children had caffeine in their daily diets, up from 82 percent of adults and 43 percent of children aged 6 to 17 years in 1977.
But while more people are getting a caffeine buzz, the strength of that jolt appears to be declining as the average daily intake of caffeine dropped from 227 mg per day to 193 mg per day in adults.
Among caffeine users, coffee (71 percent), soft drinks (16 percent), and tea (12 percent) were the top three sources of caffeine. Coffee was the main caffeine source for men and women over age 18, but soft drinks were the top caffeine source among children aged 2 to 17.
Among persons aged 2 to 54 years, as age increased, caffeine consumption increased.
An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee has about 135 mg of caffeine, an 8-ounce cup of caffeinated tea has about 50 mg of caffeine, a 12-ounce glass of Coca-Cola has about 34.5 mg of caffeine, and a 12-ounce Diet Coke has 46.5 mg of caffeine.
Researchers say many Americans may not realize how much caffeine they’re drinking because manufacturers are only required to list caffeine as an ingredient on the food or drink label, while the Nutrition Facts label does not specify the amount of caffeine in the product.
In addition, beverages marketed as high-energy drinks may contain more than one type of caffeine extract, and herbal sources of caffeine may not be listed as an active ingredient.
SOURCES: Frary, C. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, January 2005. News release, American Dietetic Association. WebMD Medical News: “Coffee and Pregnancy: A Bad Mix?”
4 Healthy Caffeine Fixes—No Coffee or Soda Required
As anyone who’s gone on a sugar detox knows, the sweet stuff is majorly addictive. So we always assumed that soda cravings were a sign that your body was crying out for it. But as it turns out, the reason you’re dying for a Coke may be for the caffeine fix, not the sugar high. (Learn Everything You Need To Know About Sugar.)
In a move designed to secretly monitor their soda intake, researchers from Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand asked 99 young adults to “taste test” a lemon-flavored soft drink; some participants received a caffeinated version, while others were given decaf. The findings: The people drinking the stimulant-spiked sodas gulped down about 53 percent more than the rest (419 ml, compared to 273 ml in the decaf group).
While soda is a great occasional treat, it’s best as an indulgence, since too much is a surefire recipe for weight gain. (Check out the other Worst Drinks for Your Body.) The no-brainer substitute is coffee. But if you’re not in the mood for java, you can get your caffeine fix from one of these four energizing foods and drinks instead.
This healthy brew can have anywhere from 24 to 40 mg of caffeine, a little less than half what’s found in coffee. Many people report that the energy boost they get from green tea-especially matcha, a powdered form of the drink-is more even and mellow than what’s offered from coffee. Plus, green tea is packed with good-for-you polyphenols like catechins and flavonoids that can protect the heart and even help you burn fat. Black tea and bottled iced teas can also serve as a pick-me-up. (One of our faves is Motto Matcha Green Tea Soda.)
This plant is commonly used in energy drinks, and for good reason: Its seeds contain about double the amount of caffeine as what’s found in java beans. While guarana isn’t something you can pick up at your local grocery store, it is widely sold as supplements. One recent study found that after taking a multivitamin that had guarana in it, people showed better decision-making.
Fortified Coconut Water
Even without anything added, coconut water can be stimulating. That’s thanks to the potassium, which helps the body convert carbs into fuel. But Zola takes it a step further with their Coconut Water with Espresso ($33 for a 12-pack; amazon.com), which has 125 mg of caffeine-as much as what’s in two one-ounce shots of espresso. (Discover some other Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Coconut Water here.)
Coffee beans aren’t the only type that offer a energy boost: Cocoa beans contain caffeine as well. But you’ve probably noticed that while tasty, a mug of hot chocolate isn’t quite as energizing as your usual java. That’s because compared to the 95 grams of caffeine you get from a cup of joe, a regular-size bar of milk chocolate (1.55 oz.) has just 9 grams. Dark chocolate is a bit more buzz-worthy; the same amount has roughly 18 grams. And bittersweet types are also richer in healthy antioxidants called flavonoids. (But remember, when it comes to healthy indulgences like chocolate, Serving Size Matters.)
- By Mirel Ketchiff
Surprising Foods That Contain Caffeine
Besides coffee, these other foods, beverages, and medications may also cause you to stay awake.
If you’re looking for a quick jumpstart in the morning—or you’re trying to stay alert at work in the afternoon—it’s only natural to reach for a hot cup of coffee or tea. Although this ubiquitous brew may be one of the world’s most popular sources of caffeine (a natural compound that helps stimulate the central nervous system), it’s certainly not the only way to get a boost.
In fact, there are several other foods, beverages, and even medications that contain significant amounts of caffeine. Consume them at the wrong time—like before bed—and they could keep you awake at times when you want to catch some sleep. While none of the ones listed below delivers the same caffeine jolt of java (which contains usually 100 to 200 milligrams per eight-ounce serving), each could mean the difference between tossing and turning—or quickly drifting off.
While its very name implies that its totally caffeine free, don’t be misled. Even “decaffeinated” coffee contains at least two and up to 12 milligrams—just enough to keep you from catching your zzz’s.
Caffeine is naturally found in cocoa beans, so most chocolate has at least some of the energy-boosting compound. The amount of caffeine in chocolate varies, depending on the bar’s ingredients (a blend of cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar, flavorings, and fillers), but generally, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it contains. A Hershey’s Special Dark bar, for example, packs 31 milligrams (about same amount as a full can of cola) and a Milky Way Midnight delivers 14 grams.
Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt
If coffee or chocolate flavors are among your favorites, expect your ice cream or frozen yogurt to pack a caffeine punch. Many popular brands with these flavors can contain 30 to 45 milligrams.
Did you know that your cereal could be giving you the extra energy boost that you need in the morning? That’s right! Cereals, such as Quaker Cocoa Blasts and other chocolate-flavored a.m. munchies, can pack up to 11 milligrams of caffeine.
If pudding is your guilty pleasure, you may be surprised to know that it can supply you with up to 10 milligrams of caffeine—especially the chocolate-flavored kind. Therefore, this gooey treat may not be the best snack to have before bed.
On a crisp winter night, hot chocolate seems like the best choice to stay warm, but it also could keep you up late. Normal hot cocoa mix can hold nine milligrams of the energy-filled substance. However, this beverage could be a great choice in the a.m. to mix up your morning coffee routine, as it has only about a tenth as much of the jittery stuff as a cup of coffee.
While these medications help put your cramps and other menstrual troubles at ease, many of the popular brands incorporate caffeine into their products. Midol (Menstrual Maximum Strength Caplets), for example, packs a whopping 60 milligrams. That’s because caffeine is a diuretic (it makes you urinate), so it reduces bloating. But if you’re aching for some relief at night, these types of drugs may rev you up too much.
It’s easy to turn to pain relievers when a headache or migraine strikes, but it may shock you to learn that caffeine is a common additive in most headache drugs. In fact, the stimulant can make up 40 percent of drugs such as Excedrin and Bayer. How come? Research has shown that caffeine can improve how much aspirin and acetaminophen relieve headache pain. But since caffeine is a stimulant, you may want to think again before you take one before you head to bed.
What’s the first thing you think of when you roll out of bed in the morning? If your answer is coffee, you’re not alone. While it’s tempting to grab an overloaded Frappuccino on the way to the office to get you through the morning, the sweet treat is packed with fat, sugar, and calories and is best left to special occasions.
When it comes to your daily brew, trying to be a smidge healthier will do your body good, and Carolyn Brown, registered dietitian for Food Trainers, as well as Keri Glassman, registered dietitian and founder of The Nutritious Life, know exactly which drinks should become your go-tos — and which should get the boot.
Before heading to Starbucks, remember these three golden rules:
- Avoid sweeteners at all costs. Syrups, both real and artificial, skyrocket your drink to meal-like proportions. And with that many chemicals in one sitting, it triggers sweets craving for the rest of the day.
- Stick to the 60-100 calorie range. Consider it the safe zone that won’t derail your diet. If the local ‘Bucks doesn’t have calories listed on the menu, opt for tall and grande sizes (sorry, venti). And you’re only allowed one refill — max.
- Get back to basics. Coffee, tea, espresso, and cappuccino are all great, healthy options. If you’re really watching your overall calorie and sugar intake, you can use healthy add-ons like cinnamon or nutmeg to give it some punch.
Now that those tips are converted to memory, it’s time for the fun stuff. While these definitely aren’t the healthiest drinks to walk the face of the planet (you know, if drinks could walk), Glassman says they’re healthier, and drinking one won’t be the end of the universe.
Healthier Drinks to Order at Starbucks
1. Teavana Shaken Ice Passion Tango Tea. Ask for the unsweetened version of this fruity drink. It’s already packed with zest, so there’s no need for sugar or syrup.
2. Iced Coffee. You can’t go wrong with this favorite drink. Brown recommends drinking it sans sweet stuff, or Stevia if you must, and using a little almond, soy, or coconut milk for flavor instead.
3. Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers. Berries give this drink a sweet flavor and the green coffee extract provides a caffeinated boost.
4. Orange Mango Smoothie. Glassman says this is better as a snack, not a drink, but hey — it’s better than the cupcakes being passed around your office.
5. Classic Chai Tea Latte. While this drink is higher than the calorie range suggested, you can ask for it without the added sweetener to put it back in guilt-free territory.
6. Brewed Coffee. This classic drink will never go out of style, plus there are loads of health benefits to drinking a daily cup of joe. If you’re looking for an extra energy boost, choose the blonde roast, which Brown says is super caffeinated.
7. Skinny Vanilla Latte. You can have this cold or hot — just make sure to skip the added pumps of sweetener and use Stevia instead.
8. Red Eye. It’s not listed on the menu, but this added shot of espresso in your coffee will give you an extra jolt without upping your drink size.
9. Cappuccino. It may seem counterintuitive, but Brown says it’s best to opt for whole milk over the low-fat or skim variety here, thanks to the added nutrients. Or, go with soy, coconut, or almond milk to cut down even more.
10. Pineapple Kona Pop Brewed Tea. Looking for drink options with brewed-in flavor, like this zesty tea, is an easy low-cal option. It’s rich in flavor and caffeine-free — perfect for an after work treat.
11. Caffè Americano. This drink is simply water and espresso, making it a great option if you like strong coffee and loads of caffeine.
12. Coffee Mini Frappuccino. While this drink definitely breaks the added sweetener rule, it’s the best option if you’re going to indulge in a Frappuccino. Go for the whole milk option, which has added nutrients, and ask for the 120-calorie mini size.
13. Ombré Pink Drink. The pink drink everyone is going crazy for is now officially part of Starbucks’ menu, and it’s actually pretty healthy. The ombré beverage — made with a coconut milk base — will only cost you 100 calories. And that’s for a grande. (Gasp.)
14. Violet Drink. Another day, another Starbucks beverage almost too pretty to sip. This one’s full of blackberries and creamy coconut milk, making it taste more like a guilt-free dessert.
15. Strawberry Açaí Starbucks Refreshers. A new take on the classic Refreshers, this drink is flavored with strawberries, passion fruit, and açaí. Plus, you’ll get a boost of caffeine from the green coffee extract.
16. Caffè Latte. Sometimes it’s better to just keep things simple, and that’s definitely the case with the classic caffè latte. You can get a 12 oz. almond version that’s just as foamy as the original, but much easier on the waistline.
17. Pumpkin Spice Latte. If you’re a major PSL fan, there is a healthier way to order the drink. Just opt for almond milk, skip the whipped cream, and tell your barista you only want one pump of the pre-sweetened pumpkin-flavored syrup.
18. Peppermint Mocha. The festive peppermint mocha can easily pack on hundreds of calories if you order as-is, but try this hack: Order almond milk, no whip, no dark chocolate curls, and only one pump of peppermint-flavored syrup for a option that’s better for your body.
WATCH NEXT: A History of Starbucks’ Christmas Cups
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Jessica Leigh Mattern Web Editor Jessica Leigh Mattern is a web editor and writer who covers home, holiday, DIY, crafts, travel, and more lifestyle topics.
15 Healthy and Creative Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix
To many, that morning cup of coffee is a ritual—an obsession, even. A solid 80 to 185 mg of caffeine per cup can kick start a morning, and it’s got even more benefits beyond the jolt. Each day 100 million American adults drink the elixir that’s been linked to improved mood, a lower the risk of some cancers, and increased calorie burnEffects of breakfast and caffeine on performance and mood in the late morning and after lunch. Smith, A.P., Kendrick, A.M., Maben, A.L. Health Pyschology Research Unit, School of Psychology, University of Wales College of Cardiff, UK. Neuropsychobiology, 1993; 26(4):198-204.Effect of coffee ingestion on physiological responses and ratings of perceived exertion during submaximal endurance exercise. Demura, S., Yamada, T., Terasawa, N. Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Kanazawa University. Journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2007 Dec; 105 (3 Pt 2):1109-16.Coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk: further evidence for inverse relationship. Shaflque, K., McLoone, P., Qureshi, K., et al. Nutrition Journal, 2012 Jun 13; 11(1):42.. Think coffee has no place past the mug? Here are some sneaky ways to get it into any diet.
1. Energy Smoothie
When iced coffee doesn’t do the trick, blend some Joe in a smoothie. Try a “ban-offee” version by blending ¾ cup of cooled coffee, a frozen banana, ¼ cup milk (of your choice), and a touch of maple syrup for a jolt with banana’s superfood powers. Extra perk: The potassium in bananas helps to replenish electrolytes lost from a night of boozingThe major electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride. Terry, J. Journal of Intravenous Nursing: The Official Publication of the Intravenous Nurses Society, 1994 Sep-Oct;17(5):240-7..
2. Coffee Muffins
Get ready for coffee cake’s younger and cuter (pre-portioned) cousin. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees, and spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. Mix 1 cup of strong, cold coffee, ½ cup sugar (or another sweetener), 2 eggs, and a cup of plain yogurt. Add 2 ½ cups of whole-wheat flour (or instant oats!), and two teaspoons of baking powder until just combined. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Mocha “Puddin’’
Mix up a cup of plain yogurt with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and a tablespoon of instant coffee, and whip it up ‘til the coffee dissolves. Sweeten it to taste, and add some vanilla extract for an extra zing. Top the mock pudding with some nuts or berries!
4. Coffee Rub
The dark acidic tones of coffee pair well with dark meats like duck, beef, and lamb. Rub freshly ground coffee beans (the darker the roast, the more potent the coffee flavor), with a touch of coarse pepper on to a meat of choice. Pro Tip: Throw it all in a plastic bag and shake it around for a mess-free even coating.
5. Perky Marinade
Coffee’s not just for sweet stuff. Soak some steak in coffee for an hour or more before it hits the grill for tender, smoky meat without the not-so-glamorous nutrition stats other marinades have.
6. Balsamic Coffee Reduction
This tasty glaze is an easy and delicious addition to any salad (and especially tomato and mozzarella based ones). Combine 1 cup of coffee, 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and the zest of a lemon to a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Drizzle away!
Mix up a milk of choice, a teaspoon of instant coffee, and a touch of agave nectar (or preferred sweetener) in w bowl. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds (empty cups will do, too) and freeze. After freezing for an hour, insert popsicle sticks, and continue to freeze until solid (about another hour or two).
8. Pick-Me-Up Oats
Prepare one serving of plain ol’ oatmeal (or a whole pot if you’re cooking for the week). Mash up half a banana with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, a splash of vanilla extract, and ¼ cup milk. Add the oats (or a hefty scoop from your big pot) and stirto combine. Heat for 1-2 minutes, or eat it chilled when the weather’s hot for a high fiber breakfast that’s been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, aid in digestion, and improve metabolismCan dietary oats promote health? Welch, RW, Human Nutrition Research Group, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK. British Journal of biomedical science, 1994 Sep;51(3):260-70..
9. Raw Energy Bars
Toss a handful of favorite nuts in a food processor and pulse until it reaches a fine sand-like texture. Add a few chopped dates, 2-3 tablespoons ground coffee beans or instant coffee, and a pinch of sea salt and pulse until the mixture begins to come together. Slowly add a few drops of water until the mixtures becomes a little doughy. Spice it up with some mix-ins: shredded coconut, cocoa powder (packed with antioxidants, or cacao nibs are great optionsCocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. D., Katz, Doughty K, Ali A. Yale University Prevention Research Center, Derby, Connecticut. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 2011 Apr 7.. Scrape the mixture onto a pan lined with parchment paper and press it flat. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.
10. Chocolate Covered Beans
We mean the espresso kind, not lima. Grab a good dark-roast bean, and a good quality chocolate (milk, dark, or a mixture). Chop up the chocolate, and microwave on low, stirring every 10 seconds until completely melted. (Tedious, but worth it!) Pour the beans into the chocolate and remove one-by-one with a fork, drop the dipped beans onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Keep ‘em separate, otherwise you’ll have coffee bean clusters! (Or, you know, go buy a bag of pre-covered beans.)
11. Coffee Cubes
Keep that iced coffee strong as steel by using coffee ice cubes to keep it cool. Simply fill an ice cube tray with cooled coffee, and freeze. Pop out the frozen cubes and let them melt into your coffee, and say goodbye to watered down coffee.
12. Coffee Granita
Granita, Granada. We know you might not believe us, but this one only has two ingredients. Brew up some coffee and add agave nectar to taste. Taste it before freezing (you’ll want it a little sweeter and stronger than normal drinking coffee). Pour the coffee into a shallow baking pan, and pop it in the freezer. Pro tip: It’s easier when the liquid is only about an inch deep. Every 30 minutes, use a fork to scrape the icy coffee into crystals, until all of the coffee is crystallized.
13.Banana Coffee Ice Cream
Ice cream in 4 ingredients. ‘Nuff said. But just in case, here are the instructions: In a blender or food processor, combine 2-4 ripe frozen bananas, 2-4 teaspoons instant coffee (depending on how strong you like it), ½ cup chopped dark chocolate (optional), and 1/8 cup almond milk. Pulse until the mixture gets going, and then blend until smooth. (Note: You may need closer to ¼ cup milk if the blender is having a hard time pulsing up the ingredients.) Pour into a Tupperware container (about 1 quart in size) and freeze to harden up the ice cream before scooping!
14. BBQ Sauce with a Buzz
Combine ½ cup ketchup (we recommend choosing a low-sugar, low-sodium brand), ½ cup brewed coffee, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and ½ a teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until it thickens up. Stir in ½ teaspoon each of black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and low sodium soy sauce.
15. Coffee Cocktail
This list simply would not be complete without a cocktail. For a late night pick me up, combine ¼ cup chilled espresso, 2 tablespoons of rum (white or spiced), and 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk (it’s just a little). Shake well and strain into an ice-filled glass.
The Best Energy Drinks in 2019 (And Which to Avoid)
Additional reporting by Kiersten Hickman.
Can an energy drink really be healthy? While there’s wide speculation on energy drinks being healthy or unhealthy, there are in fact a few healthy energy drinks out there that aren’t waist-widening beverages that cause jitters and make your heart pound.
A new crop of energizing sips are sparkling waters with natural fruit flavors or tea-based beverages fueled with B vitamins and brain-boosting adaptogens, like L-theanine. They’re also canned without added sugars and zero artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors. Some use cold-pressed vegetable and fruit juices for color and extra nutrients.
But how can you ensure that what you’re drinking is going to give you the boost you need? To help you find the unhealthy and healthy energy drinks on the market, we tapped Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, nutrition expert and co-founder of Neuro Coffee, as well as Hillary Cecere, RDN and registered dietitian for Eat Clean Bro.
How to pick the best healthy energy drinks.
When shopping the aisles for an energy drink, there are certain nutritional and ingredient claims to look out for.
- Added sugar: Roussell says to look for one that “Ideally has zero , but definitely less than 10 grams per 8-ounce serving. If you’re going higher than that, I would only use it prior to exercise.”
- “Energizing” vitamins: When it comes to energy drinks fortified with vitamins and antioxidants, Roussell says they’re not going to make much of a difference in giving you energy. However, B vitamins are essential for converting food into energy. “B vitamins are put in a lot of energy drinks because they are needed for our body to break down and use the energy found in the foods we eat. But more B vitamins doesn’t make your body do this better, and it isn’t something that you can feel,” Roussell explains.
- Health-boosting adaptogens: Some energy drinks also infuse certain antioxidants, minerals, and adaptogens to reduce muscle soreness, improve cognitive function, and promote calm. But Roussell reminds us that the benefits of these health boosters are limited. “Most energy drinks are under-dosed and contain levels of ingredients that are so low, you won’t benefit from their effect,” he says.
- Caffeine: In terms of how much caffeine you can enjoy daily, it’s best to limit your intake to no more than 400 milligrams. “Everyone should be cognizant of the amount of caffeine that they’re consuming, as everyone has a different level of sensitivity to it,” Roussell says.
The 10 best energy drinks, ranked from good to great.
To help eliminate the guesswork at the grocery, we rounded up the healthy energy drinks on the market—as well as the unhealthiest energy drinks to avoid—to help you make smarter choices for your caffeine boost. Our ranking is based on calories and sugar content. However, if some don’t have either, we then based on the carb content.
Best: Just Chill Beverages
Just Chill/Facebook 70 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 0 g protein
You’re more productive when you’re calm and focused and not jittery. Just Chill’s secret: L-theanine, the amino acid in green tea, that’s been proven to help reduce stress and promote relaxation. L-theanine is also known as a nootropic that helps enhance cognitive function and concentration.
Just Chill’s beverages also have B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium infused to help ease anxiousness and relieve muscle tension. Because a can has 17 grams of sugar, we recommend enjoying this drink sparingly or splitting it with a friend.
$24.50 at Amazon Buy Now 9
Best: Tea Riot
Tea Riot/Facebook Hibiscus Glow flavor: 70 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (0 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 0 g protein
What sets Tea Riot apart from the other healthy energy drinks on this list is the addition of cold-pressed juices. Whether you choose the Turmeric Shine or the Greens Lift, you’re getting fresh-brewed tea with a side of vegetable and fruit juices, including kale, spinach, ginger, and carrot. Tea Riot has about 50 to 75 milligrams of caffeine—the equivalent of what’s in a shot of espresso. From black pekoe and white peony to sencha green tea to hibiscus flower and matcha, these energizing sips also infuse a dose of health-boosting polyphenols.
$19.99 at Amazon Buy Now 8
Best: V8+ Energy
Courtesy of V8 50 calories, 0 g fat, 50 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (0 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 0 g protein
While V8 is best known for its vegetable juice, this energy drink delivers 80 milligrams of caffeine and a slew of nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, iron, and B vitamins. Green tea extract is the natural caffeine source, while its reconstituted vegetable juice blend, which has the juices from sweet potatoes, purple carrots, and carrots, provide a dose of vitamins and minerals. Try ’em out in Peach Mango, Orange Pineapple, Diet Strawberry Lemonade, and Diet Cranberry Raspberry.
$15.92 at Amazon Buy Now 7
Best: Clean Cause Sparkling Energy Water
Courtesy of Clean Cause Peach flavor: 30 calories, 0 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 0 g protein
With only 30 calories per can and 4 grams of sugar, Clean Cause’s sparkling energy waters supply caffeine from green coffee bean extract with a hint of sweetness from organic fruit juice and natural flavors. And what’s even better is that with each can purchased, 50 percent of profits support individuals in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction—a cause close to Clean Cause’s founder Wes Hurt. Cecere says this is “a good option for someone avoiding caffeine.”
$52 at Amazon Buy Now 6
Best: Celsius Naturals
Celsius Live Fit/Facebook 10 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
Guarana seed extract from the Amazon rainforest is the main source of caffeine in Celsius Naturals’ healthy energy drinks. Ginger root spices things up by revving up your metabolism and supporting thermogenesis—the process in which your body produces heat—so your body burns more fat and calories. The sparkling drink also has chromium, which will help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep cravings at bay.
$35.61 at Amazon Buy Now 5
Best: Bai Bubbles Sparkling Antioxidant Infusion
Courtesy of Bai Bubbles 5 calories, 0 g fat, 10 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (1 g sugar, 7 g Erythritol), 0 g protein
If you combine your seltzer obsession with your love for fruit juice, you get Bai’s sparkling energy drinks. Taste-tempting flavors include black cherry, blood orange, grapefruit, blackberry lime, pineapple, watermelon lime, and coconut lime. One can serves up 45 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of one cup of green tea) with just 1 gram of sugar and 5 calories. It’s so refreshing that it also makes a great mixer for low-sugar cocktails.
$17.76 at Amazon Buy Now 4
Best: MatchaBar Hustle Unsweetened
Courtesy of MatchaBar 5 calories, 0 g fat, o mg sodium, 1 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 1 g protein
When you need a 3 p.m. pick-me-up, MatchaBar’s Hustle has a delicious blend of ceremonial grade matcha, green tea extract, and lemon and lime extracts. At 120 milligrams of caffeine—that’s more than what’s in a cup of coffee—you’ll feel buzzed to get through every meeting, email, and assignment for the rest of your day. And if you’re worried about feeling jittery, the L-theanine in the green tea extract has a soothing effect to keep you calm and focused.
$36.97 at Amazon Buy Now 3
Best: RUNA Energy Drinks
Courtesy of RUNA 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
RUNA is brewed with organic guayusa tea, which, according to Cecere, are tea leaves that are a naturally occurring source of caffeine from South America. RUNA’s healthy energy drinks pack up to 150 milligrams of caffeine in one 12-ounce can. Cecere says that guayusa “may be less stimulating than synthetic caffeine” but it has “antioxidant properties.” Thanks to the organic pear juice concentrate, you get a hint of fruity sweetness without the blood-sugar-spiking white stuff. Choose from unsweetened Mint Strawberry, Watermelon, Lime, Blood Orange, Pineapple, Mango, Berry, and Pomegranate.
$29.88 at Amazon Buy Now 2
Best: Hiball Sparkling Energy Water
Courtesy of Hiball Energy 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, <1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugars), 0 g protein
Hiball’s sparkling energy waters have only six ingredients: carbonated water, natural flavor, caffeine, ginseng, guarana extract, and B vitamins. Yes, there’s absolutely no sugar. And at zero calories and just one gram of carbs, keto diet followers will be able to enjoy this fizzy drink guilt-free, too. The bubbly bev is also fortified with B vitamins to help reduce fatigue and weakness.
“I think it’s a good choice if you are having an energy drink, but beware that with 160 milligrams of caffeine and herbs, there is always a chance of an adverse reaction,” says Cecere. “I do think it’s great that the caffeine is not synthetic caffeine.”
$23.92 at Amazon Buy Now 1
Best: Zevia Energy
Courtesy of Zevia 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g sugar), 0 g protein
Whether you need a boost to power you through your spin class or a little lift to help you get through a major deadline at work, Zevia’s natural energy drink boasts 120 milligrams of caffeine. With zero calories and sugar, there’s no better way to get the kick you need. It comes with refreshing flavors such as Grapefruit, Raspberry Lime, Mango Ginger, and Kola—for those who want to wean off of their soda addiction.
“I think the Kola flavor could be used as an alternative to soda,” says Cecere. “I like that it does not artificial colors.”
$19.44 at Amazon Buy Now
The 4 worst energy drinks for your health, ranked from bad to absolute worst.
101 calories, 0 g fat, 41 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (0 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 0 g protein
While Monster Energy may not be the worst of the worst energy drinks, it’s still hurting more than it’s helping your energy for the day. The sugar content is high for this drink.
“These drinks are not only high in calories but they are empty calories,” says Cecere. You would probably be better off eating a snack that will give you all-day energy.
Worst: Red Bull
110 calories, 0 g fat, 105 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (0 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 0 g protein
While Red Bull tends to be the quintessential energy drink of choice, it’s not great for your health. For a small 8-ounce can, the sugar content is quite high.
“The worst energy drinks are the ones that are high in sugar, artificial colors, and caffeine,” says Cecere. If you’re looking for a quick caffeine fix that doesn’t rack in the sugar, you may be better off with a shot of espresso, which has 51.3 milligrams of caffeine in it (compared to Red Bull with 75 milligrams).
Per 16 oz: 278 calories, 1 g fat, 77 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (0 g fiber, 59 g sugar), 1.6 g protein
If you’re looking to cut back on the sugar, Rockstar energy shouldn’t be your top pick. In fact, this drink has 59 grams of sugar per 16-ounce can. Cecere notes you should “stay away” from sugar that high.
According to Healthline, high amounts of caffeine and sugar will not only cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, but the inevitable crashes will put your body under stress and release a “roller-coaster” of hormones.
Worst: Full Throttle
Courtesy of Full Throttle 220 calories, 0 g fat, 160 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (0 g fiber, 58 g sugar), 0 g protein
Full Throttle is officially the worst energy drink of them all. With 220 calories and 58 grams of sugar per can, this drink has more sugar than five Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Why drink these empty calories when you can easily be enjoying real, healthy carbs instead? Plus, if you’re looking for an afternoon energy boost, you can always get the caffeine from what Cecere calls “natural energy drinks” like unsweetened brewed coffee, espresso, black tea, and green tea—all with little to no calories!
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Coffee and developers have a strong connection. I mean a very strong connection, not unlike what Gollum shares with The One Ring. While having my cup of Americano yesterday, I started thinking – what’s the best way of Caffeine intake. So cheers, folks! That’s what we have on the menu today. 😉
While ranking all the drink and ways to drink them, we will consider the amount of caffeine per serving and also the calories that go with it. So you will have your best source of caffeine at the end of this article.
Yup, your cola may contain some caffeine. One small cup may contain 27.8mg of caffeine and 31g of sugar. That’s why it is not recommended to lean toward your cola for caffeine needs unless you don’t have another option available. I know you will say “What if I take Diet Coke?”. Well, there are many types of research that show Diet Coke is even more harmful. Check this link out.
Well, I’m not a big fan of Redbull, to be honest. It may contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but it has too much sugar in it. Although Redbull is quite popular among programmers, it’s actually not a great source of caffeine. I have seen many people associating hackathons with energy drinks, maybe that’s the reason Redbull is such a craze. And the mystical “taurine”, which their marketing team pushes as some sort of magic pixie dust, is actually not that magical at all. Some people suggest it acts as more of a sedative than a stimulant, so it could actually slow your brain’s activity rather than speed it up. Ironic, right? 😃
Lattes and Cappuccinos
I know how much you love your Lattes and Cappuccinos, but sadly, my favorite caffeinated beverage is also not the best source of caffeine for you. They contain a lot of sugar, and let’s not even talk about all those flavors we love to add on top. More sugar! It may be the best treat for your taste buds, but not for your health. There’s no harm in enjoying it occassionally though. Just don’t kid yourself that you’re drinking it for something other than the taste. 😆
Chai Tea (Indian👳🏻♂️)
(Note: If you prefer small size, the numbers will be halved)
A typical Indian Chai, apparently the most consumed beverage in India, or Chai Latte for Westerns. This is the most preferred source of caffeine for most of the Indians. It has a fair amount of caffeine in it, but also suffers from the same downfalls as Cappuccinos and Lattes. It has a lot of sugar in it, so you shouldn’t consume a lot of it.
Caffeine: 64 mg
As we are going down, we are moving towards the healthier sources of caffeine. Espresso has an impressive amount of caffeine and that too in just 9 calories. The best part about this is that it’s a shot. So no more savoury sips. One shot and you are done.
Caffeine: 100-120 mg
Yes, brewed coffee is the best source of caffeine according to me. Freshly brewed coffee can have upto 120mg of caffeine, and that too by consuming less than 5 calories. It has many antioxidants that increase the brain power. There are many other health benefits also. Check this post.
So there you have it. All the popular sources of caffeine dissected and analyzed. But the purpose of this post isn’t to tell you to stop drinking certain drinks. You should definitely enjoy them all occassionally. After all, variety is the spice of life. Just try to lean on the healtheir side if, like me, you depend on caffeine to dominate your day. 😉
Oh and while we’re at it, don’t take too much caffeine. Everything is good in moderation, and that’s true for caffeine as well. If you want to cut your intake, try some other sources not listed here, like dark chocolate or green tea. I’m sure you can find plenty if you look.
And don’t forget to comment your favorite caffeinated beverage below!