Redox state unbalance and the activation of the arachidonic acid (AA) cascade, contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. Inflammatory cells that infiltrate the atheroma plaque or tumor are a major source of reactive oxygen species and eicosanoids. The human antioxidant defense network is complex and interlocking and there is controversy surrounding the beneficial effects of diet-derived antioxidants in vivo. However, epidemiological studies indicate that populations that consume high levels of plant-derived foods containing phenolic compounds have low rates of CVD and cancer. The molecular mechanisms for these effects are multi-faceted. They include the regulation of transcription factors and consequently the modulation of genes (cytokines, growth factors and adhesion molecules), and growth factor-receptor interactions and cell signaling cascades, which determine the expression of genes involved in cell cycle, cell survival and apoptosis, as well as adhesiveness/invasiveness and angiogenesis. The present paper also focuses on the effects of phenolic compounds on AA cascade enzymes (cyclooxygenases and lipoxygenases) and the subsequent synthesis of eicosanoids, which are involved in CVD and cancer. A better understanding of these processes could explain the beneficial effects of polyphenols on the most prevalent diseases in Western societies. This commentary shows that antioxidants under evaluation include structural modifications of low-molecular-mass polyphenols, which could lead to a valuable strategy for modulating the generation of inflammatory mediators involved in these chronic diseases.