Harvard Health Letter

Caffeine hides in surprising foods and beverages


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Caffeine is now in painkillers, candy, water, and even breakfast treats.

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in more than 60 plants such as tea and kola nuts. But it's showing up in non-natural places that you may not know about. "The increase in advertising of drinks with caffeine as a replacement for coffee has led to caffeine being added to snacks, energy bars, and other processed foods," says Dr. Eric Rimm, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Caffeine is listed on food labels only when it is added to a food, not if it occurs naturally in an ingredient. But you can spot caffeine in products by noting marketing terms such as "energy" and "wired," and by looking for caffeine-containing ingredients, such as coffee and chocolate, in the following types of food:

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