Pulses are grain legumes that have sustained the civilisations of the world throughout their development; yet this staple food crop has fallen into disuse, particularly in Westernised societies, and decreased consumption parallels increased prevalence of CVD. The objective of the present study was to identify mechanisms that account for the cardioprotective activity of dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), one of the four primary pulse crops, which is widely produced and consumed globally. Laboratory assays that can be used for in vivo screening of dry beans and other pulses to identify those with the greatest potential to benefit human health are also reported. Sprague–Dawley rats and a diet-induced obesity model in C57Bl/6 mice were used to assess the effect of cooked dry bean incorporated into a purified diet formulation on plasma lipids and hepatic proteins involved in the regulation of lipid biosynthesis. In both animal species, short-term feeding of a bean-containing diet reduced plasma total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol without affecting HDL-cholesterol or total TAG. Mechanisms associated with cholesterol catabolism and excretion are the likely targets of the bean effect. Unexpectedly, bean-fed obese mice experienced weight loss as well as an improved plasma lipid profile within a 12 d time frame. These findings support the use of short-term (7–14 d) assays to investigate mechanisms that account for the cardioprotective and weight regulatory effects of dry bean and to screen dry bean germplasm resources for types of bean with high protective activity. These same assays can be used to identify the bioactive components of bean that account for the observed effects.