A good steaming cup of coffee is a morning ritual for many people around the world. But we often get asked is coffee bad for me, how much is too much and is decaf better for me?

Where can you find caffeine?
Caffeine is found naturally in many plants (e.g. coffee and cocoa beans, tea leaves, kola nut, yerba mate, and guarana). Caffeine is used in fizzy drinks, energy drinks and some drugs. Coffee and tea tend to be the main sources for caffeine for adults while fizzy cold drinks seem to be the main source for children.

What is caffeine’s effect on my health?

Caffeine acts as a stimulant in the body. The sensitivity to caffeine varies from person to person and some people are a lot more sensitive than others. For these sensitive people, taking in too much caffeine can cause:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Headaches

Just one cup of coffee can make some people feel jittery and anxious while others can drink numerous cups of coffee and barely keep their eyes open. Latest research has found that this is actually due to a genetic link – have a read up about your genes and caffeine here.

Interfering with sleep – Caffeine only takes 15 – 20 minutes to get into your blood stream and it’s effects can lasts up to 10 hours. If coffee is affecting your sleep, try to avoid all coffee and caffeine-containing foods 10 hours before bedtime

Are there any health benefits?

You will be happy to know that your daily cuppa doesn’t only provide that jolt of energy in the mornings; there are actually some benefits to drinking coffee. There have been quite a few studies on caffeine and some are showing that there are actually some health benefits to that daily cup of Joe in the morning:

  • There may be less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • Drinking up to 4 cups of coffee a day may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • It may help control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The reason for coffee’s health benefits are due to the fact that coffee beans contain a large number of antioxidants. There are about 1000 antioxidants in green coffee beans. The chief health promoting antioxidants are polyphenols, including chlorogenic, caffeic, and ferulic acids.

What about Decaf?

Decaf coffee is pretty much the same as regular coffee, except that it has had about 97% of the caffeine removed. Decaf is not completely caffeine free and will vary between coffees, but the amount of caffeine is very small. One cup of decaf usually provides about 3mg of caffeine where as caffeinated coffee contains about 70–140 mg per cup.

The caffeine is removed by various methods that include water, organic solvents or carbon dioxide. The nutritional content of decaf coffee should be very similar to regular coffee except for the caffeine content.


So how much it too much?

The following amounts are considered safe for daily consumption

Men and women (≥19yrs): 400mg/day

Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 300mg/day

Children (≤12 years): Not more than 2.5mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.

E.g. A child between 4 and 6 years: Not more than 45mg of caffeine (You can reach this with only one 355mL can of Coke)


Final words: If you find coffee has quite a big reaction in your body, maybe try cutting back or opting for decaf options. Try to always make sure that you are drinking enough water in the day.


Munchwize Registered Dietitians are based in Claremont, Cape Tow. Contact us here.





Facts on Caffeine.

What is caffeine? Is it bad for my health?

Appold, K. The perks of drinking a cup of Joe.

O’Connor, A. For Coffee Drinkers, the Buzz May Be in Your Genes.

Decaf coffee: good or bad?