There is substantial interest in the role of plant secondary metabolites as protective dietary agents. In particular, the involvement of flavonoids and related compounds has become a major topic in human nutrition research. Evidence from epidemiological and human intervention studies is emerging regarding the protective effects of various (poly)phenol-rich foods against several chronic diseases, including neurodegeneration, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In recent years, the use of HPLC-MS for the analysis of flavonoids and related compounds in foods and biological samples has significantly enhanced our understanding of (poly)phenol bioavailability. These advancements have also led to improvements in the available food composition and metabolomic databases, and consequently in the development of biomarkers of (poly)phenol intake to use in epidemiological studies. Efforts to create adequate standardised materials and well-matched controls to use in randomised controlled trials have also improved the quality of the available data. In vitro investigations using physiologically achievable concentrations of (poly)phenol metabolites and catabolites with appropriate model test systems have provided new and interesting insights on potential mechanisms of actions. This article will summarise recent findings on the bioavailability and biological activity of (poly)phenols, focusing on the epidemiological and clinical evidence of beneficial effects of flavonoids and related compounds on urinary tract infections, cognitive function and age-related cognitive decline, cancer and cardiovascular disease.