Pulses vs. Legumes: What’s the Difference?

One of these edible plants can grow about 6 feet long.

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Even if you’ve never heard of the word “pulse” or “legume” before, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten both of them. If you have heard of these terms, there’s also a chance you’ve gotten them mixed up. We’re here to clear that up. 

In short: Legumes are edible plants that grow in pods, and pulses are edible seeds inside those pods that have been harvested and dried for you to eat. 

Legumes are fruit of plants in the pea family, but they’re not confined to your typical pea. (BTW, here are the health benefits of the humble pea.) These fruits come in many shapes and sizes, but many are long and narrow and bear their seeds in a single line. Some legumes that you may know and love: 

  • Green beans

  • Edamame 

  • Snow peas

  • Tamarind

  • Peanuts

Fun fact:  The largest legumes come from the monkey ladder vine and can grow up to 6.6 feet.

If you open up those legumes, you’ll often find an edible seed. Pulses are a type of leguminous crop that is harvested for the dry seed. Some pulses you may know and love:   

Both pulses and legumes are important parts of a well-rounded, heart-healthy diet. These eats are high in protein and full of amino acids. Pulses, in particular, are low in fat and rich in fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. 

Pulses-legumes-pulses-legumes … can’t get the names straight? Don’t worry about it—just eat more of them. (Check out these unconventional ways to eat more beans.)