Are legumes and pulses the same?

Although often used interchangeably, these terms do mean different things.

Legumes refer to ALL types of fresh and dried beans and peas from the Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) family of flowering plants (1).

Also called pods, they generally release their inner 'seeds' by splitting open along two seams and includes soybeans and the less commonly known member; peanuts (groundnuts/monkey nuts).

These too grow in pods, under the grown (unlike other nuts that grow on trees or bushes). However, as their nutritional composition is more similar to that of tree nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, they often tend to be grouped alongside these rather than other legumes.

Pulses are a subgroup of legumes that include only dried seed of legumes (2). As a result those harvested fresh and green for vegetable consumption (i.e. green garden peas, green runner or string beans) are excluded, as are those used mainly for oil extraction (e.g. soybeans and groundnuts). Pulses include; chickpeas, dried beans (i.e. kidney beans and butter beans), dried peas, lentils and lupins and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and can be consumed in many forms including whole or split, or ground into flour.

They are a great source of protein, fibre and iron, among other nutrients. One portion (80g, which is equivalent to around 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked pulses) counts as 1 of your 5 A Day but if you eat more in a day, this still only counts as 1 portion (3). This is because while pulses contain fibre, they don't give the same mixture of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as fruit and vegetables.

Safety: Dried beans contain natural toxins that need to be destroyed by proper cooking. See for instructions. Tinned beans have already been cooked, so can be used straight away.


1. Pulse Canada. What is a pulse? (2021) Accessed 6/3/21 from

2. FAO. Definition and classification of commodities. 4. Pulses and derived products (1994) Accessed 6/3/21 from

3. NHS. Beans and pulses in your diet. Eatwell (2018) Accessed 6/3/21 from