In the past, when you needed your morning caffeine fix to kick-start your hectic day, or the mid-afternoon slump has left you craving a java jolt pick-me-up, you headed to your local coffee shop to grab a steaming, satisfying cuppa Joe. However, times have changed and you needn't just turn to coffee for your fix. All sorts of food and beverage products are now touting the stuff, ranging from caffeinated jerky to caffeinated gum.
Sales of energy-lifting foods in the U.S. soared to over $1.6 billion in 2012, and that number is only expected to rise, along with our blood levels of caffeine.
1. Cracker Jack
An old-timey favorite has even hopped on-board the caffeine train. The beloved Cracker Jack, a favorite among baseball fans, has developed Cracker Jack'd Power Bites, which provide about the same amount of caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee. It is advised on the back of the package that they contain caffeine and aren't recommended for children, women who are pregnant or caffeine-sensitive people.
2. Gummy Bears
Gummy bears have also joined the caffeine-infused product realm. Vat19 is selling gummy bears with added caffeine from guarana extract, along with antioxidants and vitamins. Each 60-calorie pack contains 225 mg of vitamin C, 12 mg of niacin, 2 mg of vitamin B6, 385 mcg of folic acid, 3 mg of vitamin B12, 240 mg of biotin, 7 mg of vitamin B5, 36 mg of taurine, 32 mg of caffeine and 8 mg of coenzyme Q10. The label does warn not to consume the product if you're pregnant, have heart conditions or are sensitive to niacin or caffeine.
Want to add some jolt to your S'mores? Caffex now makes a variety of caffeine-containing marshmallows called CaffeMallows, with each marshmallow providing 100 mg of caffeine and 50 calories. The product's label does warn pregnant women and minors not to consume it.
Jerky has now added caffeine and a clever title--Perky Jerky. A one ounce serving of Perky Jerky, made from either beef or turkey, contains 150 mg of caffeine sourced from guarana. Each variety comes in several flavors.
5. Potato Chips
And as if potato chips weren't bad enough for you on their own, one company has taken it a step further and laced them with caffeine. NRG potato chips claim the have taurine, caffeine and b-vitamins added.
6. Sunflower Seeds
Caffeine is also being added to nutrient-dense foods. Sumseeds are roasted sunflower seeds that have been caffeinated. One 1.75-ounce bag contains 140 mg of caffeine, 96 mg of taurine, 53 mg of lysine and 40 mg of ginseng. Sumseeds come in four flavors.
Wired Wyatt's sells all-natural Wired Waffles (which they also call Energy Waffles) in a variety of flavors, along with their Caffeinated Maple Flavored Syrup. One waffle contains 200 mg of caffeine, which is about the same amount found in 20 ounces of coffee. Each waffle also provides 200 calories. Their website says that one serving of the caffeinated syrup gives you more caffeine than your average energy drink. The front of the package does contain a "caffeinated content advisory" logo.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to caffeine and health, I'd recommend getting yours (if you choose to consume caffeinated products) the old-fashioned way by enjoying a smooth, rich cup of good ol' fashioned coffee. This way, not only are you sticking to a safe dose of caffeine, you're also getting a hefty dose of health-promoting, disease-preventing antioxidants as well. Additionally, it's always safer to get nutrients from whole foods rather than in the form of some infused product. Foods containing added caffeine haven't been extensively studied to determine their long-term health effects. On the other hand, people have been safely enjoying coffee for centuries.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. If you would be interested in working with Kari one-on-one, sign-up for FitDay Dietitians.