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Prairie Fare: Enjoy Caffeinated Beverages in Moderation

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
A moderate amount of caffeine can improve our alertness and, sometimes, our performance on mental tasks, but too much caffeine can leave us “wired” and lead to sleepless nights, headaches, abnormal heart rate or diarrhea in some cases.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I probably will not have a chance to taste all these kinds of soda pop again, so I’d better try as many as I can, I reasoned to myself. So, I tasted soda pop typically sold in Japan, Uganda, China and numerous other countries.

I was visiting a soft drink museum at the time. One of the highlights of the museum was a beverage display with soft drinks from around the world.

Compared with U.S. soda pop varieties, some of the Asian pop varieties were barely sweet at all. Some of the African soda pop varieties were much sweeter than the typical soda found in the U.S. Some types of pop were less carbonated.

One soda pop tasted more like mouthwash than something you would choose to drink for enjoyment.

Of course, as I tasted, I was not thinking about the amount of caffeine I was consuming. That evening, back at my hotel, I realized what I had done.

Wide-eyed and fully energized, I think I could have run up and down the 70-story hotel stairways several times on caffeine power.

Caffeine is naturally found in coffee, tea and chocolate, and it is added as a flavoring ingredient to some carbonated beverages. For example, it imparts a slightly bitter flavor to cola beverages. Caffeine-free soda pop usually has a slightly different taste than “regular.”

Beverage companies are required to list caffeine on the ingredient label. However, beverage companies do not have to list the amount of caffeine present.

According to most health experts, we should try to limit our caffeine intake to the amount in two or three cups of coffee, or about 200 to 300 milligrams, per day. Coffee can vary greatly in caffeine content, depending on the ratio of water to coffee grounds.

Breast feeding women and women contemplating pregnancy should follow their health-care provider’s advice regarding caffeine consumption. At least one study has shown a link between caffeine intake and increased risk of miscarriage, but more research is needed.

A moderate amount of caffeine can improve our alertness and, sometimes, our performance on mental tasks. Too much caffeine can leave us “wired” and lead to sleepless nights, headaches, abnormal heart rate or diarrhea in some cases. An abrupt withdrawal of caffeine can result in irritability, fatigue and nervousness.

In other words, your family or co-workers may want to steer clear if you suddenly decide to go caffeine-free.

If you decide to cut down on your caffeine consumption, approach caffeine withdrawal slowly. You simply can use less coffee grounds while making coffee or substitute more and more decaffeinated coffee grounds for “regular.”

If someone else makes the coffee or tea, you can add hot water to dilute the caffeine content. Add some fat-free milk to whiten coffee. You will dilute the caffeine and add some calcium, too.

Think about your beverage intake and try not to let coffee and soda pop crowd out beverages such as water, milk and 100 percent juice.

Here’s a caffeine-free smoothie recipe courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Council at Enjoy this vitamin C-rich smoothie as a breakfast or snack. It reminds me of the creamy orange popsicles I enjoyed as a kid.

Creamsicle in a Glass

6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate

8 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 c. low-fat milk

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 ice cubes

Orange slices for garnish (optional)

Place orange juice concentrate, yogurt, milk, sugar and vanilla in blender. Process on medium until mixture is smooth. Increase the speed to high and drop ice cubes, one at a time, through opening in blender cover. Process until ice is crushed. Garnish with orange slices if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 184 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat and 34 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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