Caffeine has become a necessity for all different types of individuals. Whether jump starting your day, staying late night hours at work or just going about your typical day, everyone seems to rely on caffeine in this fast-pasted society we live in. Although in the past, caffeine has gotten a bad rap; recent studies show that caffeine may actually be good for you.

Caffeine is a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Most experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys for eating or drinking caffeine-containing products. Moderate caffeine consumption is considered to be about 300 mg, which is equal to 3 cups of coffee.

Here are some surprising health benefits of caffeine:

Mental Performance: If you are falling asleep and need a boost caffeine can definitely help you.

Mood:Studies have shown that when people consume caffeine, they felt an increased well being, happiness, energy and sociability.

Physical Performance: Caffeine helps the body burn fat instead of carbohydrate and dulls the perception of pain, which can both boost endurance.

Headaches:Most headache medications include caffeine. When you get a headache the blood vessels in your brain expand; caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict which helps relieve pain.

Diseases: Caffeine has been said to protect against gallstones by showing that caffeine can reduce the size of the crystallized stones. Caffeine can also protect against Parkinson's disease. This disease results when levels of the brain chemical, dopamine fall, interrupting nerve signals from the brain to muscles. caffeine increases the expression of dopamine receptors in the brain

Antioxidants:Many caffeine-containing beverages, most notably tea and more recently coffee, have been found to contain antioxidants. Antioxidants have been known to help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Due to the ever growing consumption of caffeine, manufacturers have been producing more products containing caffeine in them. So if you're not a coffee addict, here are some surprising boosts of caffeine:

• Edys Grand Espresso Chip Ice cream,(4 oz.) 45mg • Haagen-Daas Mocha chip, regular or light, (4 oz.) 30-40mg • Crackheads Candy,(1 package)120mg • Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar, 20mg • Sumseeds Sunflower seeds,(1 container)140mg • Swiss Miss Mocha Cappuccino,(1 packet) 25,mg • chocolate milk,(8 oz.) 2-7mg • Mountain Dew,(12 oz) 54mg • Red Bull, (8 oz.) 80mg

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto