Caffeine 101

Do you find yourself confused about whether or not coffee is good for you? Have you had someone tell you that caffeine is bad for you? Caffeine (and coffee in particular) have always seemed to get mixed reviews about the health benefits or risks and it can be hard to discern what is accurate and what is not. One minute coffee is full of antioxidants and you’re being told you should be drinking multiple cups per day, and the next minute you’re being told that caffeine can cause health problems and should be consumed only sparingly. This is definitely frustrating when you’re trying your best to live a healthy life, so today we wanted discuss all things caffeine to help clarify fact vs fiction!


What is caffeine and where is it found?

Caffeine is defined as a compound that stimulates the central nervous system, and for this reason it is classified as a drug. Caffeine is commonly found in various foods and beverages, most notably including: coffee, tea and chocolate.


Other beverages such as sodas and energy drinks have added caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in some pain killers, cold medicines and diet supplements. The table below shows the range of caffeine content for some common foods and drinks containing caffeine.

Substance Serving size Caffeine Content
Brewed coffee 6 oz 80-150 mg
Espresso 1 oz 30-50 mg
Decaf coffee 6 oz 2-10 mg
Brewed Tea 6 oz 30-90 mg
Canned or bottled tea 12 oz 8-32 mg
Soft Drinks 12 oz 20-70 mg
Milk Chocolate 1.5 oz 2-10 mg
Dark Chocolate 1.5 oz 5-35 mg
Pain Medicines 2 tablets 65-130 mg
Weight loss pills 2-3 tablets 80-200 mg


How does caffeine act in the body?

Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow throughout the body which can lead to increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Other potential side effects can include reflux due to increased stomach acid production, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and insomnia.

The caffeine molecule is similar in structure to adenosine, a naturally occurring compound in the brain. There are various adenosine receptors in the body, which when bound with an adenosine molecule act to help the body relax, or make it sleepy. Since caffeine is a similar shape to adenosine, it can also bind to the receptors, making adenosine unable to bind to the receptors, and therefore keeping the body awake and alert (Source).



Caffeine Molecule (Source)


Studies show that consuming greater than 100 mg of caffeine daily can lead to physical dependence and potential withdrawal symptoms in the absence of caffeine intake (Source). The average American citizen is consuming 280 mg of caffeine daily.

Caffeine is contraindicated in various conditions including pregnancy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), anxiety disorder and insomnia due to effects it has on blood circulation and stimulation of stomach acid.

Fact vs Fiction

Caffeine increases your risk of cancer: Fiction

There are no studies to support the notion that caffeine intake causes cancer, in fact some studies suggest it may have protective effects against cancer due to its high antioxidant properties. NIH studies also show coffee may decrease risk of Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, Type II Diabetes and various other conditions (source).

Caffeine intake causes heart disease: Fiction

There are no studies linking caffeine intake to increased incidence cardiovascular disease. Those who have high blood pressure may want to moderate caffeine intake due to the temporary rise in blood pressure as a result of vasoconstriction in the blood vessels.

Caffeine causes dehydration: Fiction

Though caffeine can have a slight diuretic effect, studies fail to prove that caffeine itself causes dehydration. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to offset any fluid losses from caffeine.

Caffeine is harmful to pregnant women: Fact/Fiction

The general recommendation regarding caffeine intake during pregnancy is less than 200 mg/day (or about 2 cups of coffee) as higher caffeine intakes have been linked with increased risk of miscarriage.

Caffeine is addictive: Fact/Fiction

Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system and chronic consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms if caffeine intake is stopped, though moderate caffeine intake is not linked to a physical dependence on the substance.


Moderate caffeine intake is safe. Coffee in particular has some additional health benefits likely related to the antioxidant properties. Pregnant women and children should have limited caffeine intake, and those with existing cardiovascular disease may want to discuss their caffeine intake with their doctor. Avoiding high doses of caffeine found in supplements and energy drinks would be best as high doses of caffeine may have some adverse effects.


Be sure to check out our post about healthier ways to flavor your coffee for all of you coffee drinkers! And if you are still on the pumpkin spice train- don’t miss this clean eating pumpkin spice creamer!

Talk to us: Do you drink coffee? How much caffeine do you have in a day?






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Baked Honeycrisp Apples

Today’s recipe is like fall wrapped up in one {healthy} dessert! My kitchen smelled heavenly when these were cooking! Not only is this recipe delicious but most of the ingredients are likely already in your pantry. The possibilities are endless on what you can include in the “stuffing” of the apple, but I went with some of my favorite flavors – pecans, craisins, and oatmeal! This would be the perfect dessert to prepare ahead of time and then bake during dinner, so the apples are warm and ready when dessert time hits. The best part is this dessert is low fat and gluten free (with GF certified oats) – perfect for a variety of guests that you may have at your house for the holidays!


To prepare the apples, I used a pairing knife to cut out the top of the apple core and then a small melon corer to scoop out the rest of the middle of the apple. You should have a bowl like shape when you are done scooping. Mix together the pecans, craisins, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a separate bowl. Fill each apple with the oatmeal mixture evenly and top off with 1/4 Tbsp butter. Place the stuffed apples in a baking dish and pour the 1 cup water at the bottom of the dish.

Cook for 50-60 minutes (mine were done in 55 minutes) at 350 degrees. The apple should be soft when done with a wrinkled outside texture.  Make sure to monitor the water level at the bottom of your baking dish while the apples bake. If you see all of the water has evaporated, make sure to add more.

Serve by itself warm or with a scoop of yogurt for additional flavor. Or, maybe with a small scoop of Halo Top ice cream for a special treat. Enjoy!

Baked Honeycrisp Apples
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 4 Honeycrisp apples (or sweet apples of your choice)
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • ¼ cup reduced sugar craisins
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup hot water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the apples (cut the top off and scoop out the middle).
  3. Mix together the pecans, craisins, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a separate bowl.
  4. Fill each apple with the oatmeal mixture evenly.
  5. Top off with ¼ Tbsp butter on each apple.
  6. Place the stuffed apples in a baking dish and pour the 1 cup water at the bottom of the dish.
  7. Cook for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.


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Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I know I have mentioned this before, but the crock pot is by far one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I love the ability to prepare a meal in advance so that when dinner time comes, most of the work is already done and the meal is on the table quickly! As the cooler weather approaches, I rely even more on the crock pot for ready made dinners like this Green Chile Chicken Soup and this Veggie Loaded Baked Potato Soup; however, my husband is not the biggest fan of “crock pot food”. The usual complaint is that it is too dry. I have managed to come up with a few non-soup, non-casserole crock pot meals that pass his taste test- and this is one of them!


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Ask the RD – Part 3

Happy Thursday! We are back with another edition of Ask the RD to answer some of the most frequent questions we get as dietitians. We love hearing from readers and clients on questions that you have, so as always, feel free to reach out to us!


What are your thoughts on frozen meals/ entrees, especially for a quick lunch on the go? What criteria should we use when selecting a frozen meal?

Frozen meals can be extremely convenient for busy people. And, they are usually a healthier option than eating out if you are unable to pack a lunch or bring leftovers from the night before, as long as you choose the right one! But, there can be some options available on the market that are not the healthiest. Some of our favorite brands are Kashi, Evol, Amy’s or the Simply line from Healthy Choice; however, it is important to review the nutrition label and ingredient list before making any purchases. Even some of the “healthier” brands can be loaded with saturated fat, sodium or a long list of ingredients.  Some important aspects to consider while trying to choose a frozen meal include: 

  • Look for a good ratio of protein to carbohydrates. Ideally, look for a meal with as much protein as carbohydrates (if not more). In fact, I would recommend avoiding any meal that has a significantly higher amount of carbohydrates than protein.
  • Choose a frozen meal that does not have more than 600 mg sodium per serving but definitely not over 800 mg. If your doctor has placed you on a sodium restricted diet, these markers may be even less.
  • Look for a clean ingredient list – the less ingredients, the better. 


A great option that meets all of these qualifications is the Grilled Chicken Pesto and Vegetables meal from Healthy Choice (Simply Cafe Steamers line). With 200 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrate, 27 grams of protein and 600 mg sodium per meal, this frozen entree makes our list for meals to consider!

Why is it so important to eat breakfast?

Because you go all night without eating, breakfast is found to be the most crucial meal of the day. Some of the reasons why eating breakfast is so important include:

  • Weight control: Eating breakfast jump starts your metabolism. In fact, studies have shown that it helps prevent overeating later in the day.
  • Skipping breakfast may increase your risk of diabetes.
  • Studies show that eating breakfast is correlated with lowering your risk of heart disease in the future.
  • If you eat breakfast you are more likely to have improved cognitive function and memory.

Check out our breakfast recipes for some great options that are easy to prepare for a quick breakfast on the go!

What can I eat that keeps me fuller for longer?


Fiber is one of the best nutrients to keep you fuller for longer. So, by choosing healthier, whole grain alternatives instead of white breads, pasta, and potatoes, you are consuming foods with substance. Some healthier options of carbohydrates that would include fiber would be natural popcorn, a piece of fruit, whole grain bread, Ezekiel bread (low sugar option), brown rice, etc. Also, try adding a protein to each carbohydrate you eat. For instance, for breakfast, don’t just eat a piece of whole grain toast but add a protein like an over easy egg or peanut butter/ almond butter on top.  This combination will keep you fuller for longer, as protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates alone.

Hydration is another key in feeling satisfied. Many times hunger is mistaken for thirst. Make sure to drink at least 64 oz of water per day to stay hydrated (plus more if you are physically active or sweating a lot).

Is hot tea really as good for you as some people say? If so, what kinds have the best health benefits?

Hot tea can be good for you – depending on what kind you are drinking and how it is prepared! If you are using it as a replacement for a sugary coffee drink in the morning (especially when it’s cold outside), it can definitely have added benefits. However, if you are drinking it instead of water, it can be dehydrating if it contains caffeine. Looking for a hot tea option? Try hot Green tea with lemon and honey for a naturally sweetened drink with an antioxidant boost! 

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Salmon Cakes with Lemon Dill Cream

Salmon is a staple in my diet, but I find myself sometimes getting bored with the traditional season/bake method. Salmon burgers, patties and cakes are readily available at the grocery store, but often times come at a price or have some extra ingredients I could do without. One of my absolute favorite salmon burger patties is from HEB, but they have jalapeños in them which makes it too spicy to feed to the little one. I decided to come up with my own recipe so that I could control what was in it and make it desirable for everyone in the family!


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