What Is A Pulse, Anyway? You've Probably Been Eating Them All Your Life

It's time to check your pulse ... intake.

You're living in the Year of Pulses, according to the United Nations, but would you know it if we didn't tell you? Do you even know what a pulse is?

We asked 10 people in our office if they knew about pulses (the kind you eat), and no one had ever heard of them. "Sounds like we're cannibals," they agreed.

Well, apparently we're not the only people unaware, because the United Nations declared 2016 to be the "International Year of Pulses" to "raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits" of the food group, something that has been "an essential part of the human diet for centuries, yet their nutritional value is not generally recognized and is frequently under-appreciated," José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a statement.

So what is a pulse?

It is basically a dried legume seed -- those plants whose fruits are grown in a pod, such as alfalfa, peas and peanuts. But the difference is that pulses are grown specifically to eat the seed.

According to Pulse Canada:

Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term 'pulse' refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses.

If they've been around for centuries, why do we need a dedicate a whole year to them now? They're a sustainable crop with less of a carbon footprint and less reliance on fertilizers than other crops -- for example, it takes 1,837 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef and only 43 gallons to grow a pound of pulses, according to the Global Pulse Confederation.

And since we're living in a time when our very own Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments says boys and men are eating too much protein from meats, rather than plants, it's good to be reminded that pulses are a nutritious alternative.

"Pulses are a great source of plant-based protein," Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told The Huffington Post. "They are a sustainable and inexpensive way to add more protein to your plate, with most varieties having anywhere from 15 to 20 grams of protein per cup cooked."

Not only are they high in protein, fiber, iron, zinc, and B-vitamins, but eating pulses can actually improve your heart's pulse.

"[Pulses] may help lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure and heart disease risk," Rumsey said. "Due to their high protein and fiber content they digest slowly, which can mean better-controlled blood sugar levels, appetite, and weight. Plus, the fiber content can play a role in better gut health and can decrease risk of colon cancer."

Need more reasons? Here are a few recipes that feature pulses front and center.

Amaranth Cakes With Lentils, Kale And Chipotle Aioli
Feasting at Home
Skillet-Popped Lentils
Healthy Happy Life
Get the Skillet-Popped Lentils recipe from Healthy Happy Life
Lentil And Basmati Salad With Tamarind, Coconut And Cilantro
Mark Weinberg/Food52
The View From The Great Island
Get the Mejadra recipe from The View From The Great Island
Lentils With Garden Vegetables, Avocado, Walnuts And Hummus
Bev Cooks
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal
Cafe Johnsonia
Get the Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal recipe from Cafe Johnsonia
Buffalo Lentil 'Meatball' Sandwich
Naturally Ella
Get the Buffalo Lentil 'Meatball' Sandwich recipe from Naturally Ella
Beet Braised Lentils
Feasting at Home
Get the Beet Braised Lentils recipe from Feasting at Home
Zucchini Spaghetti With Lentil Marinara
Lemons and Basil
French Lentils With Roasted Root Vegetables
Bev Cooks
Shepherd's Pie (Vegan)
Minimalist Baker
Get the Shepherd's Pie recipe from Minimalist Baker
Spaghetti And No-Meatballs
Healthy Happy Life
Get the Spaghetti and No-Meatballs recipe from Healthy Happy Life
Chipotle Lentil Tacos
Naturally Ella
Get the Chipotle Lentil Tacos recipe from Naturally Ella
Cheat's Lentil Soup
The Clever Carrot
Get the Cheat's Lentil Soup recipe from The Clever Carrot
Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes
Lemons And Basil
Get the Vegetarian Lentil Sloppy Joes recipe from Lemons And Basil
Green Lentil Soup With Curried Brown Butter
Bobbi Lin/Food52
Get the Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter recipe from Sarah Jampel via Food52
Coconut Lentil Soup With Lemongrass
Cafe Johnsonia
Get the Coconut Lentil Soup with Lemongrass recipe from Cafe Johnsonia
Mushroom-Lentil Tacos With Tahini Yogurt Sauce
James Ransom/Food52
Get the Mushroom-Lentil Tacos with Tahini Yogurt Sauce recipe from Kendra Vaculin via Foo52
Warm Ginger Curried Lentil Dip
Healthy Happy Life
Get the Warm Ginger Curried Lentil Dip recipe from Healthy Happy Life
Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower
Naturally Ella
Get the Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower recipe from Naturally Ella
Lentil Meatballs With Indian Fenugreek Sauce
Feasting at Home
Spicy Black Bean And Lentil Chili With Cotija Guacamole
Half Baked Harvest
BBQ Blue Cheese Lentil 'Meat'balls
Naturally Ella
Ginger Peanut Lentil Burger
Get the Ginger Peanut Lentil Burger recipe from Hummusapien
Crispy Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils
Feasting at Home

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