The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has announced the 2016 Food of the Year: pulses.

In doing so, the FAO has also confused a lot of people with this virtually unheard of food.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are the edible seeds of plants that come from the legume family. It’s important to note that a pulse only refers to the dried version of the seed. More common varieties of pulses are chickpeas, dried peas and edible beans. They are extremely low in fat content, but high in fiber and protein.

Why did the FOA name pulses as the 2016 Food of the Year?

The great nutritional values found in pulses are just one of the reasons why they have taken out this honour. As well as protein and fiber, pulses contain minerals such as zinc, iron, B-vitamins and phosphorous. They are also gluten free and carry a low glycemic index rating.

Pulses are also easy to add to your diet. You can eat them by themselves, as part of other dishes (such as stir fries, risottos and salads), or even after they’ve been ground down into flours. As they are dried, they can often last for months, making them a useful food source across the globe.

Another reason to love pulses relates to looking after our environment. When they grow, they offer nitrogen-fixing properties on farms, which can help to improve soil fertility for future crops. They are extremely efficient in terms of water usage for growing, compared to other protein sources- which means they can be grown in harsher climates with less water supply.

 Be sure to include more pulses in your meals in 2016 to make the most of their healthy, environmentally friendly, and affordable benefits.