If you’re like many people, you’re very familiar with caffeine from your morning cup (or cups) of coffee. National Caffeine Awareness Month in March invites you to consider the common pick-me-up a little more closely. Recent research suggests that consuming moderate amounts of caffeine may lower your risk of some diseases, improve performance when exercising, and provide the well-known benefit of reducing fatigue. At the same time, too much caffeine over a long period of time may have negative effects. So what’s the optimal amount?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 400 mg of caffeine per day (or four to five cups of coffee) isn’t harmful to most healthy adults. But Betsy Opyt, a licensed dietitian and integrative functional nutrition specialist in Naples, says each person’s ideal daily caffeine intake differs. “A lot of it depends on the way your body metabolizes caffeine,” she explains. “It’s knowing your body and the way it associates with food.”
To gauge appropriate levels of caffeine for your body, Opyt first recommends paying attention to how well you’re sleeping. If you have a smartwatch, she suggests checking your heart rate for correlations with the amount of caffeine you’re consuming each day. When you’re feeling stressed, she advises skipping the caffeine. Or, for lower caffeine options that can still help perk you up, she recommends coffee alternatives like matcha and other teas. Opyt also offers a few additional points to keep in mind when choosing a caffeinated food or beverage.
“You want it to be from a natural source; you don’t want to get it from things like energy drinks,” she explains, noting that tea, coffee, and dark chocolate provide health benefits like antioxidants in addition to caffeine. For a healthy caffeine kick, try her chocolate pudding recipe:
Chocolate Dream Pudding
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and quartered
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1/4 cup raw honey or substitute with your favorite natural vegan sweetener
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Berries and mint for garnish
Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the pudding to individual ramekins, top with fresh fruit and/or a sprig of mint, serve, and enjoy!