Today, caffeine is the most popular natural drug in the world.

    Although many of us think of coffee, tea, or maybe even cocoa when we think of this highly stimulating substance, there are actually a number of other plants which produce caffeine-like chemicals.

    >Yerba maté and guarana, for example, two South American plants that have only recently become known around the world, are being used with greater and greater frequency in the preparation of commercially prepared teas and energy drinks. (Two of caffeine’s alternative names, mateine and guaranine — often seen on popular product labels — are derived from the names of these plants.) But while these South American plant derivatives are often substituted for coffee or tea, they are hardly the same.

    A typical energy drink made with guarana, for example, can actually contain as much as 259 mg of caffeine–twice the caffeine found in coffee beans (with about 2–4.5% caffeine in guarana seeds compared to 1–2% for coffee beans). And while frequently sold as a dietary supplement, the long-term effects of guarana and similar chemicals are as yet unknown.

    > For the past century, caffeine has also been a common ingredient of soft drinks like cola, originally prepared from kola nuts. The kola nut, a native to tropical Africa, is one of the most popular natural sources of caffeine among West African cultures and is traditionally chewed or roasted for use in some regional drinks.

    > Of the common sources and varieties of caffeine, cocoa is said to be one of the healthiest.  One ounce of baking chocolate contains about 25 mg of caffeine, but a glass of chocolate milk barely reaches five mg.



    While many individuals typically report varying effects from caffeine and caffeine-like chemical consumption, the disparity between the various natural sources could be due to the fact that plant sources also contain widely varying mixtures of other xanthine alkaloids, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine, and other substances such as polyphenols that can form insoluble complexes with caffeine (and caffeine-like substances) which affect their absorption rate.  Other factors may include metabolic rate, stomach content, and individual sensitivity.



    Although the amount of caffeine can vary according to brand and method of preparation, a typical six-ounce cup of instant coffee contains about 60 mg of caffeine, while the same amount of automatic-drip coffee contains around 140 mg, which often influences the method by which a coffee drinker prefers his coffee.

    For tea drinkers, teas like the pale Japanese green tea gyokuro, for example, contain far more caffeine than much darker teas like lapsang souchong, which has very little. Common green tea typically found in supermarkets or offered in Japanese and Chinese restaurants is generally lowest, with only 35 mg per six-ounce cup; black tea can contain up to 75 mg, depending on brand and country of origin.



    > De-caf Coffee: In 2007, Consumer Reports tested 36 cups of decaffeinated coffee from six coffee outlets including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and discovered that compared to the caffeine found in a regular cup (which was generally around 100 mg), the decaf samples had less, but some still contained over 20 ml.

    > Super-Chocolate: While it’s commonly known that the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar has almost as much as a can of Coke–31 mg. Other chocolate, like the limited edition Snickers Charge, is fortified with 60 mg of added caffeine–about the same as a cup of tea.

    > Ice Cream: Many popular brands of ice cream now have coffee flavors that contain as much as 30 to 45 mg of caffeine per half cup, which is about the same as a can of Coca Cola.

    > Non-Cola Soft Drinks: Some brands of root beer such as Barq’s regular and diet flavors contain as much as 23 mg of caffeine per 12-ounce can, which is just 12 mg less than a can of Coke. And though you wouldn’t expect it, Sunkist’s orange soda has 41 mg of caffeine, and A&W Cream Soda has about 25 mg.

    > Energy Water: Capitalizing on the fortified water trend is a new concoction sold by various bottling companies: caffeinated water. Utilizing guarana, Propel’s Limited Edition Invigorating Flavor has 50 mg of caffeine, as does VitaminWater’s Energy flavor.

    > Breath Fresheners: The makers of Jolt Cola, which had the maximum amount of caffeine allowed in colas before it was reformulated as an “energy drink,” also sell caffeinated gum and mints. Two pieces of Jolt Gum provides the same amount of caffeine found in a typical cup of coffee. Three of Penguin’s caffeinated mints also equal the caffeine content of a cup of coffee, and just one Foosh mint contains the same buzz.

    > Energized Sunflower Seeds: Marketed as a healthier alternative to energy drinks, these seeds are not just infused with caffeine, but natural energy boosters taurine, lysine, and ginseng. One serving of these energized seeds has 140 mg of caffeine, about the same as four cans of Coke.

    > Morning Spark brand instant oatmeal: Instead of adding fruit or nuts to what would ordinarily be an extraordinarily healthy food, Sturm Foods has added caffeine to its instant breakfast. The packaging boasts that a serving has about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

    > Perky Jerky brand beef jerky: While Perky Jerky actually has less fat, sodium, and fewer calories per serving than traditional beef jerky, but packs in about 75 mg of caffeine, about the same as a can of Red Bull.


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