Nutrition For Dummies
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Caffeine is a mild stimulant that raises your blood pressure, speeds up your heartbeat, makes you burn calories faster, makes you urinate more frequently, and causes your intestinal tract to move food more quickly through your body.

Although it increases the level of serotonin, the calming neurotransmitter, caffeine also hooks up at specific receptors (sites on the surface of brain cells) normally reserved for another naturally occurring tranquilizer, adenosine (a-den-o-seen). When caffeine latches on in place of adenosine, brain cells become more reactive to stimulants such as noise and light, making you talk faster and think faster.


But caffeine can be confusing. People react to it in highly individual ways. Some can drink seven cups of regular ("with caffeine") coffee and still stay calm all day and sleep like a baby at night. Others tend to hop about on decaf. Perhaps those who stay calm have enough brain receptors to accommodate both adenosine and caffeine, or perhaps they're more sensitive to the adenosine that manages to hook up to brain cells. Nobody really knows. Either way, caffeine's bouncy effects may last anywhere from one to seven hours.

The table lists some common food sources of caffeine. The caffeine content listed here is an average for the generic versions of the food or drink — in other words, plain, no-brand products. You can check out the caffeine content of brand-name products such as a Starbucks Espresso Solo (75 mg/oz) or Ben & Jerry's coffee flavored ice cream (34 mg/4 oz) at the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.

Foods That Give You Caffeine
Food Average Amount of Caffeine (mg)
6-ounce cups
Coffee, regular, drip 71
Coffee, regular, instant 47
Coffee, decaffeinated 1
Tea 36
Tea, instant 20
Cocoa (mix with water) 4
12-ounce can
Soft drinks, cola 29
8-ounce container
Chocolate milk (commercial, low-fat) 5
1-ounce serving
Milk chocolate 6
Semisweet chocolate 24
Bitter (baker's) chocolate 23
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

About This Article

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About the book author:

Carol Ann Rinzler is a former nutrition columnist for the New York Daily News and the author of more than 30 health-related books, including Controlling Cholesterol For Dummies, Heartburn and Reflux For Dummies, The New Complete Book of Food, the award-winning Estrogen and Breast Cancer: A Warning for Women, and Leonardo’s Foot, which the American Association for the Advancement of Science described as “some of the best writing about science for the non-scientist encountered in recent years.”

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