Eating beans regularly is good for your heart, and you don’t need to eat a lot of them to benefit. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests having just 1⁄2 cup of cooked pinto beans daily might lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber is a key reason why, says Philip Ades, M.D., author of the EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (The Countryman Press, 2008). “Like all foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber, beans help bind cholesterol and keep it from being absorbed in the gut,” he explains. And, as the fiber is fermented, it produces changes in short-chain fatty acids that can inhibit cholesterol formation. (By-products of this same fermentation process are what cause the gas so often associated with eating beans.) Other components in beans also may be responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect. Beans contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including flavonoids, compounds also found in wine, berries and chocolate, that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, which can help lower risk for heart attack and strokes.