What Food Contains Caffeine Naturally

Food and drinks with a high caffeine content

Caffeine-rich food and drinks

Not Just in Coffee

Caffeine can be found in more than just coffee and tea. Though these are the two most popular sources reached for when looking for that next burst of energy, caffeine can also be found in foods that may surprise many people. While coffee and tea may be the most obvious, this article is going to provide an impressive yet surprising number of other sources of caffeine.

Where Is It?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid in about 60 plant species (coffeeandhealth.org). The most popular being the coffee beans and tea leaves, among these two popular giants is the cocoa beans and kola nuts. Chocolate lovers around the world can thank the cocoa beans for their addictive sweet treat, while those that enjoy a can of caffeinated soda may be grateful to the kola beans.

Caffeine is not only in foods, but it also is added to some types of medications. For instance, analgesics, diet-aids and cold/flu remedies contain caffeine. Those daytime cold medicines that help even the most exhausted and overwhelmed cold victim to stay awake contain caffeine to aid in keeping those alert that take it. While the nighttime cold medicines contain little to no caffeine to allow the individual to get a good night’s sleep.

A little unknown fact about caffeine is that it is not required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be included on the list of nutritional content labels (health.com). So, for anyone that is attempting to cut back on caffeine, they really need to do their research. A good start is to cut back on coffee, tea and soda, but there are other foods that may surprise some people. A woman that has recently become pregnant may be told by her Obstetrician to cut back or eliminate caffeine altogether. The best thing she should do is contact a medical professional such as a dietitian to find out what foods she should be avoiding.


The first obvious thing most people do is cut back on coffee. They either cut back or try to switch over to decaf coffee. Despite the label, there is still caffeine in decaf coffee. Albeit not as much caffeine as a regular cup of coffee having around 100 milligrams per 8-ounce cup, a cup of decaf contains around 20 plus milligrams of caffeine.

A popular and well utilized theory is that by drinking water, one can flush their body of all the bad things they’ve consumed. A diabetic may drink a few extra glasses of water one day if they’ve had too many sweets that day. Someone that has drank alcohol may drink water to flush the alcohol out of their system. The same goes with excessive intake of coffee or caffeine. However, many may be surprised to find out that the water they are drinking may also contain caffeine! The energy boosting waters and vitamin waters all contain caffeine. The energy boosting bottled water may not be as surprising to some, but a 20-fluid ounce bottle of Vitamin water contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, and Avitae water contains 125 milligrams of caffeine equivalent to around two espressos (eatthis.com). Even when trying to take the healthy road, always make sure what is thought to be healthy really is.

Rest assured that bowl of coffee flavored ice cream does indeed contain coffee. What does that mean? That means it also contains caffeine. It is not simply “flavored”, it actually has the coffee in its ingredients. Depending on how much of that ice cream is consumed, a typical serving of ice cream contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine. Not nearly as much as a cup of coffee, but still enough to take pause and consider if it will keep one awake at night (thedailymeal.com).

When looking for alternatives to coffee, because let’s face it, not everyone enjoys the taste of coffee, some folks will turn to energy bars. It would seem obvious to most that since “energy” is in the name it would be a pretty good guess that there is most likely some form of caffeine in the bar as well. However, many do not realize this. With the word “protein” in the name, many assume that is where they are getting their energy from when in fact the energy is coming from the caffeine that the bar contains. The Redd Protein Bars contain yerba mate which contains caffeine. One Redd Protein Bar has 23 vitamins and minerals and 11 superfoods, but that yerba mate is competing with coffee by providing a powerful punch in energy.

When at a restaurant, there are those that choose to avoid ordering caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea or cola. Mountain dew is popular among students studying for finals. But what most don’t realize is that those soft drinks that is believed to be caffeine free are in fact, not. For example, Barq’s Root Beer contains 23 milligrams per 12 ounce can of caffeine, and probably the most surprising is Sunkist orange soda has 41 milligrams of caffeine. Another shocker is cream soda weighing in with 25 milligrams of caffeine (health.com)!

Hold the press, some breath mints and gums contain caffeine! Not only do they contain caffeine, but some contain enough to compete with a cup of coffee when two are taken! The popular brand Jolt that produces the energy drinks also produces Jolt gum. Take two pieces of gum and skip the cup of coffee. One Foosh mint contains the same amount of caffeine as Jolt energy drinks. Don’t be misled thinking that gum or mints can’t possibly be that powerful. Definitely do some investigating!

When a product is marketed with the word “energy” in it, it is a safe bet that the product probably contains some amount of caffeine. An example of this is energized sunflower seeds. One serving of these seeds is the equivalent of drinking four cans of Coke soda. So, even though there is no outward obvious indicator of caffeine in the seeds such as having coffee or chocolate flavoring, the word “energy” is a huge give away. Sunflower seeds on their own contain additional health benefits being a source of folate, B6 and Vitamin E, the seeds also contain no added sugar which is in stark contrast to sodas and energy drinks.

What to Look For

So why does this matter? What’s the big deal? Too much caffeine can cause problems. Yes, it energizes and aids in focus. But too much caffeine can cause jitters, migraines, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations, just to name a few. It is vitally important to read the labels. As mentioned previously, the FDA does not require caffeine to be included on the nutritional label. But if a food or drink contains words such as “Energy”, or “Energized” or any form of the word, understand there is caffeine in that product. If the food or drink is coffee “flavored”, it has caffeine, even decaf coffee. If the food or drink has chocolate, there is caffeine. Ice cream, yogurt, cereals, some pretty surprising products one wouldn’t think has caffeine, but if there is coffee or chocolate in that product, there is also caffeine.

Some companies will express on the outer label (not the nutritional label) just how much caffeine is in the product or will indicate that it shouldn’t be consumed by anyone under the age of 16, or limit how many that should be consumed in a day. Though they are not required to list it in their nutritional content, the reputable companies understand there is a responsibility they carry by offering a product with such high caffeine content. Knowing they have that responsibility, they make sure somewhere on their product details there is a warning. To be fair though, it is not always in big letters or highlighted. Sometimes if seems like a magnifying glass needs to be used anytime reading the outer labels of food products!

Understanding the Language

The bottom line is caffeine is not just in coffee, tea and chocolate. Always read the labels, but don’t rely on the nutritional labels. Read the outside of the container as well. If one is choosing or forced to cut back or eliminate caffeine from their diet, it is imperative that all bases are covered. Consider the language being used in the marketing as well. If any form of “energy” is in the marketing, understand that there will be some amount of caffeine in the product. From coffee to gum, caffeine can be found everywhere.






Image Credits:

Coffee and cup [ID 27510112 © Kyle Simpson | Dreamstime.com]

Bottles of soda [ID 40143219 © Prapass Wannapinij | Dreamstime.com]