A pulse (Latin "puls", from Greek - poltos, "porridge") is an annual leguminous crop yielding from one to twelve seeds of variable size, shape, and color within a pod. Pulses are used for food and animal feed. The term "pulse", as used by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry seed. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction (oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa). However, in common use these distinctions are not clearly made, and many of the varieties so classified and given below are also used as vegetables, with their beans in pods while young cooked in whole cuisines and sold for the purpose; for example black eyed beans, lima beans and Toor or pigeon peas are thus eaten as fresh green beans cooked as part of a meal. Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Like many leguminous crops, pulses play a key role in crop rotation due to their ability to fix nitrogen.
Just like words such as "bean" and "lentil", the word "pulse" may also refer to just the seed, rather than the entire plant.
India is the world's largest producer and the largest consumer of pulses. Pakistan, Canada, Myanmar, Australia and the United States, in that order, are significant exporters and are India's most significant suppliers.
Pulses are 20 to 25% protein by weight, which is double the protein content of wheat and three times that of rice. For this reason, pulses are called "vegetarian's meat". While pulses are generally high in protein, and the digestibility of that protein is also high, they often are relatively poor in the essential amino acid methionine, although Indian cuisine includes sesame seeds, which contain high levels of methionine. Grains (which are themselves deficient in lysine) are commonly consumed along with pulses to form a complete protein of diet.
Pulses have significant nutritional and health advantages for consumers. They are the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities, and in the Seven Countries Study, legume consumption was highly correlated with a reduced mortality from coronary heart disease.Furthermore, pulses are especially high in amylose starch making them a good source of prebiotic resistant starch.