The United Nations dubbed 2016 as the Year of the Pulse, which means this grain legume could potentially surpass quinoa and kale in popularity this year!

From lentils to dried beans to chickpeas, pulses are the edible seeds of various crops of the legume family. Here’s a cheat sheet to getting your taste buds on the pulse of this food.

Pulse vs Legume: What The Heck Is The Difference?

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Oooh, so… they’re… beans. Photo: @foodliteracycenter / Instagram

Great question, glad you asked! Plants with their fruit enclosed in a pod are legumes. A pulse is the dried seed from the interior of that pod. Pulses include pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, adzuki beans, lima beans, haricot beans, broad beans, and yes, black-eyed peas.

Why Should I Try A Frigging Pulse?

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Because they taste great, duh! Photo: @karalydonrd

Hey, simmer down! Pulses are extremely high in protein, so they’re wünder-foods for vegetarians and vegans. They’re also high in fiber (huzzah for digestion!), extremely low in fat (huzzah for BMI indexes!) and boast high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorous, and B-vitamins.

Pulse comes from the Latin puls which means potage, or “thick soup,” which is another great benefit of this food. When pureed, it makes a thick porridge-like texture excellent for ameliorating meat-based dishes.

Where Do Pulses Grow?

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They’ve been around for centuries. And it shows! Photo: @usccanada / Instagram

Archeologists found traces of pulse production in Punjab from the Indus Valley civilization circa 3300 BC. They’ve discovered lentil cultivation in Egyptian pyramids and dry pea seeds in a Swiss village from the Stone Age.

From Britain to Mesopotamia, pulses have a fairly easy time growing all over the place. Currently, India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of pulses.

So Who Loves Pulses?

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Scientists love 'em! Photo: @stbonifaceresearch / Instagram

For one, farmers and soil experts do. One neat fact about pulses is that they know how to fix nitrogen, so they’re excellent in crop rotation.

They produce compounds that feed soil microbes and benefits soil health to help ease crop turnover. Their crop residue contains a different biochemical composition than other crops, which ends up being a positive thing for soil because it enlivens its nutrient system with its array of soil organisms.

Pulses also help break disease, weed, and insect cycles. Not bad for teeny-tiny pods.

But What Kind Of Meals Can I Make From These Things?

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I spy a whole bunch of pulses in there! Photo: @chitra / Instagram

Recipe options for pulse-based meals are truly endless. Take a cue from its biggest supplier and consumer, India. Most of their dishes are pulse-based and utterly delicious. Experiment with different dals (split, dried peas) based on a variety of pulses.

Soak them overnight in cold water, simmer them, then fry them with spices, onions, chilies, and garlic. Add vegetables and serve with rice and you have one of the cheapest dishes around.

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Little did you know, the old school fave—split pea soup—is loaded with pulses! Photo: @lopezzzjamie / Instagram

Or, make soup! Vegetable and pulse-based soups are hearty, thick, stewy, high in protein and great in winter.

Try a hummus wrap, perhaps one of the easiest vegetarian dishes imaginable. Make the hummus ahead of time and have enough to last all week.

Or, experiment with halloumi cheese, chickpeas, and peppers, a Cyprus-inspired meal that boasts the joys of one of the greatest, warmest, firmest, tastiest cheeses of all time. Can you tell I have a thing for halloumi? I do. Serve with couscous and dole it out over the week, you’ll want it for breakfast too.