60% of caffeine consumption from coffee: Dietitian



Alexandra Martineau photo


Reaching for that fifth, no, sixth cup of coffee? Try to limit yourself to three, registered dietitian Zannat Reza says.


When the cold sets in, Torontonians are frantic to get their caffeine fix.

The arrival of winter always means more traffic in Richard Chan’s coffee shop. Chan, manager of the York Mills Centre Second Cup, is serving more caffeinated drinks now than any other time during the year.

Canadians most commonly turn to tea and coffee as their primary sources of caffeine, says registered dietitian Zannat Reza, which is a stimulant derived from natural sources.

"Caffeine is a natural compound. It’s a natural ingredient found in the leaves of many plants like the coffee plant," she says. "Canadian adults get about 60 per cent of their caffeine from coffee and 30 per cent of caffeine from tea. The other 10 per cent comes from cola beverages, chocolate," she says.

Caffeine is even added to some medications, says registered dietitian Rosie Schwartz. The natural stimulant can be found in different painkillers. Midol lists caffeine as one of the ingredients in its Menstrual Complete Gelcaps, for example.

Health Canada suggests that adults have no more than 400 to 450 mg of caffeine a day, while pregnant women are recommended to take no more than 300 mg, Reza says.

Although it would take five cups of coffee to reach that intake stat, Reza recommends limiting your consumption to three cups per day, "a cup being 250 ml. So that’s the size of your fist," she says.

But these are recommendations only. Not everyone responds to caffeine the same way, Schwartz says.

"Research shows that even with one cup a day, when you don’t have that cup, it’s possible that you could have withdrawal symptoms like fatigue and irritability," she says.

But your buzz has an upside: "It can help you with your concentration, help you stay alert," Reza says.

Switch, half-and-half good alternatives

Reza has tips for people looking to cut back on their coffee. Having lattés instead of a regular coffee is one of these.

"Lattés are made with mostly milk. You¹re getting a lot of calcium. And you¹re still getting a bit of a caffeine kick," she says.

Another healthier option is to blend regular coffee with decaf coffee. Coffee itself may have health benefits, she says.

"If you look at coffee, there have been some mixed reviews in terms of coffee being able to make you heart-healthy. There is also some talk about coffee helping diabetes,”she says.

But for the moment, these health benefits are not attributed to the caffeine in the coffee, she says.

"Is it caffeine in the coffee or is it other components of the coffee? We just don¹t know. It¹s too early to say," she says.

Calculate your daily intake of caffeine with these averages:

  • Brewed coffee (250 ml cup hereon): 85 mg

  • Instant coffee: 75 mg

  • Medium-brewed North American tea: 40 mg

  • Dark chocolate: 20 mg of caffeine for each 28 grams.

  • Milk chocolate: 6 mg of caffeine for each 28 grams.

  • Regular or diet Coca-Cola (355-ml can): 45.6 mg

  • Pepsi: 37.2 mg