An increasing body of epidemiologic evidence supports the concept that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can promote health and attenuate, or delay, the onset of various diseases. Epidemiologic data support the idea that these health benefits are causally linked to the consumption of certain flavonoids present in fruit and vegetables. In the context of cardiovascular health, a particular group of flavonoids, namely, the flavan-3-ols (flavanols), has received attention. Flavanol-rich, plant-derived foods and beverages include wine, tea, and various fruits and berries, as well as cocoa and cocoa products. Numerous dietary intervention studies in humans and animals indicate that flavanol-rich foods and beverages might exert cardioprotective effects with respect to vascular function and platelet reactivity. This review discusses the bioactivity of flavanols in the context of cardiovascularhealth, with respect to their bioavailability, their antioxidant properties, and their vascular effects.
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