Health benefits of coffee: How much is too much?

LOS ANGELES

Whether you like it fancy or you're a purist, coffee-lovers only seem to remember the good stuff: the energy it gives you and the antioxidant properties. And while many studies show coffee has its benefits, just how much is too much?

The American Dietetic Association says most healthy adults don't need more than 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day -- that's two to three cups of coffee, or a few shots of espresso. Four or more can cause upset stomachs and muscle tremors in the short-term, and long-term can cause ulcers and insomnia.

So if you want to get control of your caffeine, experts say keep tabs. For every cup of coffee, you should drink two full glasses of water to replenish your body. And trade off: if you plan to down a lot of java, cut back on the sodas, chocolates, and other caffeinated treats. Lastly, slow down. The effects of caffeine last about eight hours, if you think it's wearing off, it's probably in your head.

In the U.S., the average coffee drinker has three or more cups a day, but one is enough to give you a lift.

Also be sure to check your medicine cabinet. Some over-the-counter pain relievers have as much as 130 milligrams of caffeine in just one dose. That's the same as three shots of espresso. Look for caffeine-free meds instead.

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