Is Coffee Bad for Cholesterol? Depends on what kind you drink.

By Bill Bradley, R.D.
Updated January 13, 2022

Please tell me that I can still drink my coffee!

Your Doctor has told you that your cholesterol levels have creeped into the borderline to dangerous category.  They may tell you that in order to avoid taking medications you need to start eating more salad or that it is time to dust off your running shoes.  They may recommend you start following the cholesterol lowering Mediterranean Diet.  Something that you probably won’t hear them say is “oh, and it’s time to stop drinking coffee.”  Is coffee bad for cholesterol?  The truth is that coffee CAN raise your cholesterol levels significantly, but coffee’s damage depends on the way that you brew your coffee.

Is coffee good for you?

Attention Fancy Pants coffee drinkers.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine desired to get a bit more specific around reports that drinking coffee could increase serum cholesterol levels.  They looked at whether coffee brewing methods had different effects on cholesterol.  This was a “12 week randomized study with 107 young adult subjects with normal serum cholesterol levels.”  For the first 3 weeks, all the subjects drank only filtered coffee.  The subjects were then randomly assigned to 3 different groups: Group 1 drank four to six cups of boiled coffee per day.  Group 2 drank four to six cups of filtered coffee per day.  Group 3 drank no coffee at all.  All 3 groups followed their drinking habits for 9 weeks and then everyone’s serum cholesterol levels were taken.

The results showed that there was indeed a difference in coffee brewing methods and their effect on cholesterol.  The subjects who drank filtered coffee had very similar results to those who drank no coffee at all.  In these two groups, there was no significant increase in serum cholesterol levels. The boiled coffee group, however  had a mean net increase of 10% in serum cholesterol levels.

So, to answer the question, “Is coffee bad for cholesterol”, we need to look at how the coffee is brewed.  The theory is that there are cholesterol raising oils in coffee that stay in the filter when you filter your coffee.

Turkish Coffee in 2 cups

What kind of coffee should I be drinking if I have high cholesterol?

If you are worried about your cholesterol then the best coffee to drink is regular old filtered coffee (Oh, hello, Mr. Coffee). Generally, you would want to stay away from espresso drinks or French press coffee.  There are a few things to consider though.  If you are a light coffee drinker, maybe 1-2 cups per day, one would assume that the effects of boiled, unfiltered coffee would be less than the 4-6 cups that were imbibed in the coffee study above.  Another thing to consider is what other things are you doing to increase or decrease your cholesterol.

Salad Nicoise with Tuna, Potato and Egg (France)


What else can I do to decrease my cholesterol?

Let’s say giving up your daily espresso is too much to handle or you just really want to do everything you can to decrease your cholesterol (and therefore feel better) then there are a few things you can do that should greatly improve your cholesterol levels.  The best and tastiest thing you can do for yourself and your cholesterol is to start following a Mediterranean Diet.  Study after study has shown that eating the Mediterranean Diet will decrease your overall cholesterol and will increase your “healthy” HDL cholesterol.  It just so happens that the majority of foods eaten in the Mediterranean are the perfect ones for cholesterol.  Plus there focus on natural exercise (think gardening or walking to a friend’s house) is also perfect for decreasing bad cholesterol and increasing the good.

If you are new to the Mediterranean Diet you can try one of our 10 week programs (The Mediterranean Way or The Mediterranean Weight Loss Program).  Both are geared to teach you everything you need to know to start eating the Mediterranean Diet while getting all the health benefits and enjoying food like you never have before.

If you just want to dip your toes in and try the diet right away, you can find hundreds of recipes on our site ( or you can get one of our free e-books below:

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