Quick – define pulse. Did you say heartbeat as felt by fingertips? You’re right, of course, but that is just one definition.

Pulse, in the culinary and agriculture world, refers to a subset of the legume family, specifically dry beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas.

Want to dive deeper into the definition? Pulses are the low in fat, high in fiber and protein, edible seed portion of these plants and thus do not include peanuts or soybeans (also legumes) which are high in fat.

As a rule, I avoid the word superfood, but I’ll make an exception for the powerhouses that are pulses. Not only are they nutrition-packed and versatile in the kitchen, dried beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils are sustainable to grow and easy on the earth with their low carbon footprint.

Pulses are also incredibly shelf-stable, especially in comparison to other proteins and vegetables, making transportation a cinch. And, the real kicker for the nutritious food access advocate in me: Pulses are affordable and available in almost every corner of the world. From breakfast to desert and every meal and snack in between, pulses are truly the heartbeat of the hearth.

It was no surprise when I heard the United Nations had declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. I am a little nervous about convincing my readers and students to learn and use the word pulse, but hey, did you know how to cook with, or even how to pronounce, quinoa ten years ago? (2013 was the International Year of Quinoa.) Seriously, how cool is it that pulses play a part in almost every cuisine on the planet?

Cooking Light recipe developers and Cooking Light readers are no strangers to dried beans, ahem, pulses, and the culinary and health powers that lie within. I’ve written before about the benefits of a bean-heavy recipe rotation. A search for hummus on MyRecipes turns up no fewer than 165 results (my favorite is our roasted beet version). It should be no problem for you to take the #PULSEPLEDGE which asks pledgers to eat pulses once a week for 10 weeks. Canned beans count of course, but I challenge you to take it one step further and cook dried beans for at least half of those 10 weeks. Simply soak over the weekend or overnight, or if you must, use the quick soak method to speed up the process.

Whether you decide to cook a classic or bust out a Brazilian slow-cooked stew, I hope the #PULSEPLEDGE gives cooks pause in menu planning and cooking as we look to a sustainable (and delicious) food future for our families, our farmers, and this big beautiful, pulse-loving planet we call home.

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