One of the first things I did when I committed to a Clean Eating lifestyle, was vow to cut out as much caffeine as possible. As with most major dietary changes, this involves an incredible, on-going amount of label reading – something I’ve become pretty adept at, or so I thought. Believe you me, it only takes one restless night to remind oneself why it is important not only to read food labels, but to research them as well.
Green tea is considered a negligible source of caffeine, or so I’ve always been told. I can now say with complete confidence that this, especially when consumed in large quantities, is not so true. As it turns out, the 750 mL bottle of homemade green iced tea I downed hours before bedtime the other night packs quite the caffeinated punch – to the tune of approximately 25 milligrams per 8 fl. oz. Might not sound like a lot, but it’s basically the same thing as drinking just over half a cup of brewed coffee.
This unfortunate case of accidental “self-caffeination” got me to thinking: where else is caffeine lurking? I did a bit of digging on the interwebs and came up with a few surprises.
We pretty much know that all manner of coffees and black teas contain caffeine, and that caffeine is bad for us. Most of us probably realize that dark sodas or anything with the word “energy” in the title are action-packed with the stuff, but have you ever stopped to think about items such as coffee-flavoured foods? Apparently, a single serving of some coffee-flavoured ice creams and yogurts can deliver as much caffeine as a regular can of cola. Dark chocolate, which is made from the cocoa (a.k.a. cacao) bean, is another culprit. Its health benefits are all over the news, yet I’ve never heard mentioned in any of those reports that the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content.
Speaking of naturally-based sources, there are also substances like guaraná (a Brazilian plant from the maple family), yerba maté (a relative of the holly plant, also from Brazil) and kola nut (from a tropical West African tree) which people really need to become familiar with – if they are honestly looking to avoid caffeine altogether.
The list goes on and on: weight-loss pills, certain medications, pain relievers, breath mints, gums and even some orange sodas can contain shocking amounts of caffeine.
Of everything I found, this last bit of information truly drives home the importance of researching your labels and never blindly accepting what passes for common knowledge. Random testing of several major decaffeinated coffee brands revealed that a single, regular-sized cup can still contain 20 milligrams of caffeine or more.