Tea may seem like a better alternative to coffee, but remember: you still need to keep an eye on your caffeine intake.
Tea has a pretty Zen reputation, but most types contain at least a little bit of everyone's favorite stimulant: caffeine. And this means that the spot of tea you're having every afternoon contributes toward your daily caffeine allowance, which most experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, suggest as 200 milligrams max per day.
But here's the good news: Tea tends to be better than coffee, as far as caffeine goes, so you can indulge a little bit more. "Tea has a lot less caffeine, and you can afford to have a few cups a day depending on how much caffeine each has," says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian in New York City and author of Feed Your Family Right. The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea can vary widely, depending on your favorite brew. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Tazo teas all come in around the 100-milligram mark for 16 ounces of brew -- the grande size -- which means you can have only one or two per day if you want to stick within the 200-milligram limit. Black tea usually has between 30 to 80 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup, and green tea between 35 and 60 milligrams for the same size. Iced tea may be a better bet, as larger servings often come with less caffeine than their hot counterparts -- a Snapple lemon tea has 62 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-ounce serving, and 20 ounces of Lipton lemon iced tea has just 35 milligrams.
But if you're thinking about switching to decaf, even that doesn't guarantee a complete lack of caffeine. In fact, 8 ounces of Lipton decaf tea has 5 milligrams of caffeine, though you still need to drink quite a bit of it to reach that 200-milligram limit! Herbal teas such as chamomile don't usually contain caffeine, but because herbal supplements and teas aren't regulated by the FDA and there are few studies on the benefits and risks of drinking herbal tea during pregnancy, some medical experts suggest limiting your intake unless they're teas from well-known brands or are milder teas like peppermint or ginger.
Although tea is generally touted as a health drink, filled with potent antioxidants -- naturally occurring chemicals that can help stave off cellular damage and help reduce your risk of cancer -- along with other health benefits, a 2012 study suggests that high consumption of tea (more than three cups per day) may interfere with the absorption of folic acid, that essential nutrient for preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida. So before you decide to trade in your three-cup-a-day coffee habit for a three-cup-a-day tea habit, definitely talk to your doctor.
"If you limit your intake to two to three cups per day, there's no evidence of any harm coming from that," says David Elmer, M.D., an ob-gyn at Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Overall, as with anything else in pregnancy, it's best to practice moderation.
For more information on caffeine amounts in different types of beverages, visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm).
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