Flavonoids are a class of polyphenolic compounds that naturally occur in plants. Sub-groups of flavonoids include flavone, flavonol, flavanone, flavanonol, anthocyanidin, flavanol and isoflavone. The various modifications on flavonoid molecules further increase the diversity of flavonoids. Certain crops are famous for being enriched in specific flavonoids. For example, anthocyanins, which give rise to a purplish color, are the characteristic compounds in berries; flavanols are enriched in teas; and isoflavones are uniquely found in several legumes. It is widely accepted that the antioxidative properties of flavonoids are beneficial for human health. In this review, we summarize the classification of the different sub-groups of flavonoids based on their molecular structures. The health benefits of flavonoids are addressed from the perspective of their molecular structures. The flavonoid biosynthesis pathways are compared among different crops to highlight the mechanisms that lead to the differential accumulation of different sub-groups of flavonoids. In addition, the mechanisms and genes involved in the transport and accumulation of flavonoids in crops are discussed. We hope the understanding of flavonoid accumulation in crops will guide the proper balance in their consumption to improve human health.
Keywords: ABC transporters; MATE transporters; biosynthesis pathway; crops; flavonoids; health; nutrition; phenolic compounds.