Melanoidins are the final products of the Maillard reaction. The main dietary sources of melanoidins are coffee, bread crust, bakery products, black beer and cocoa. Although the chemical structures of melanoidins are widely unknown, data from gravimetric techniques allow to roughly estimate a daily intake in the order of 10 g with a Western diet. Melanoidins contribute to the sensorial properties, modulating texture and flavour of foods. Growing evidence also suggests that melanoidins have health beneficial properties, such as chemopreventive, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, and the ability to chelate different minerals. In the gastrointestinal tract, melanoidins behave not only as antioxidants, but also as dietary fibre by promoting the growth of bifidobacteria. This array of biological activities suggests the need for analytical techniques to identify the melanoidin structures and to control their formation during thermal food processing.