[All photos in this post were taken from the Steem website]
You may only know of him as Amy Schumer's uncle, but Chuck Schumer has been a senator in New York state since I was in high school. Recently, he has taken a stand against a new product on the shelves - a caffeinated version of peanut butter.
STEEM looks a lot like the peanut butter you are used to seeing on the shelf, like Jif. Made from peanuts, salt, agave, and peanut oil, the nutrition information is similar, with a nod towards the organic and natural markets, almost more in line with Justin's. But it's the addition of green coffee extract that provides the nut butter with a little something different.
According to an article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (online), the founders expected the product to thrive with video-gamers. The group tends to consume a lot of caffeine while playing long hours. Ironically, STEEM first made it big among the CrossFit community, instead.
I can't comment on the taste, since I haven't tried the product. But as a dietitian who cares about public health, a runner, and a caffeine lover, I figured I could offer some insight.
How Much Caffeine
First, let's address how much caffeine is actually IN the product. If you do a simple Google search of STEEM, you'll come across many of the articles on Schumer's quest to have the FDA ban the product. You'll also see a wide range of claims about how much caffeine is in it. According to the STEEM website, the product has 150 mg of caffeine in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
The amount of caffeine in coffee definitely ranges based on how strong the brew is. Sixteen ounces is fairly average for someone to drink at one time. For a reminder, 16 ounces = 2 cups = 1 pint. At Starbucks, that much coffee contains about 330 mg of caffeine. At Dunkin Donuts, that would be about 200 mg of caffeine.
Either way, the 150 mg of caffeine found in STEEM is less than a medium sized coffee. I would consider that a modest amount of caffeine. The problem comes when it's not your only source of caffeine.
What if you're adding STEEM to your morning oatmeal, which you eat with your coffee? Or what if you're using it as a supplement to your workout, which also includes electrolyte chews with caffeine in them? What about your chocolate, soda, energy drinks, green tea, or Excederin? How much caffeine are you getting total in your day? That's where the issue may come in.
STEEM for Athletes
Honestly, I think that STEEM could be a great option for athletes. I can see why it took off among the CrossFit community, and I think that endurance athletes and power lifters would also find acceptable uses for it. As I mentioned above, just be sure to watch how many other sources of caffeine you have.
STEEM for Kids?
The real critique - from my opinion, and from what Sen Schumer says - is when STEEM is given to children. Peanut butter has been in many ways, a quintessential food for children. Nothing is more classic than peanut butter and jelly in your child's lunch box. So putting extra sources of caffeine in a food so typically given to kids is problematic.
However, a few issues. First, most kids aren't allowed to bring peanut in their lunches any more, because of the allergy issues. Is it still a classic kids food? I think that the tide might be changing. I see more adults consuming peanut butter (or other nut butters). Second, the product is definitely not marketed towards children. The packaging isn't kid-friendly, and the website definitely speaks to the target audience as adults.
That said, every parent has come into the kitchen to find a guilty looking child covered in some food they found in the pantry. If it's in the house, it's a fair risk.
Caffeine and Kids
Do you know how much caffeine kids are getting? In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 75 percent of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis. That's a lot. Not only that, but the more caffeine they consumed, the less they slept. Sleep is important for proper restoration and growth in kids, and also important for parental sanity!
Unfortunately, the US hasn't developed official guidelines for how much caffeine is considered appropriate or safe for kids. In Canada, the limit for kids up to age six is about 45 mg of caffeine (about one can of soda), while the limit nearly doubles to 85 mg in children up to 12 years old. There is insufficient data for teenagers, which (I think) is when the energy drinks and trips to Starbucks really increase. The recommended upper limit for adults is 400 mg per day.
Too much caffeine - in kids or adults - can cause adverse affects such as dehydration, heart palpitations, jitteriness, upset stomach, headaches, difficult concentrating or sleeping, and increased blood pressure. Not to mention that caffeine can cause an increase in the release of stress hormones, which can lead to insulin resistance and obesity.
As I said, I'm a caffeine lover. I've written about the benefits of caffeine elsewhere on my blog here and for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics here. But you need to be careful when it comes to kids. As a dietitian at a Children's Hospital in Dallas said, "it's safe but not recommended."
Keep your overall caffeine intake in check. STEEM could be a great option for you if you don't like coffee, or aren't a fan of surges of caffeine. The high fat content of STEEM encourages a slow-release of the caffeine.
What do you think about the product? How would you consider it part of your daily routine? Would you allow your kids to eat it?