Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that are ubiquitously present in foods of plant origin. Flavonoids are categorised into flavonols, flavones, catechins, flavanones, anthocyanidins, and isoflavonoids. They may have beneficial health effects because of their antioxidant properties and their inhibitory role in various stages of tumour development in animal studies. It is estimated that the human intake of all flavonoids is a few hundreds of milligram per day. Flavonoids present in foods used to be considered non-absorbable because they are bound to sugars as beta-glycosides. However, we found that human absorption of the quercetin glycosides from onions (52%) is far better than that of the pure aglycone (24%). The sugar moiety is an important determinant of their absorption and bioavailability. Flavonol glycosides might contribute to the antioxidant defences of blood. The average intake of the flavonols quercetin, myricetin and kaempferol and the flavones luteolin and apigenin in the Netherlands was 23 mg/day. The intake of these flavonols and flavones was inversely associated with subsequent coronary heart disease in some but not all prospective epidemiological studies. A protective effect of flavonols on cancer was found in one prospective study; two others showed no association. Thus the epidemiological evidence does not yet allow a decision on the involvement of flavonols in the etiology of either cardiovascular diseases or cancer.