Background Little is known about the role of diet in the development of venous thromboembolism (VTE). We explored the prospective relation of dietary patterns, food groups, and nutrients to incident VTE in older women. Methods In 1986, Iowa women aged 55 to 69 years completed a mailed survey, including a 127-item food frequency questionnaire. These data were linked to Medicare data from 1986 to 2004, and International Classification of Diseases discharge codes were used to identify hospitalized VTE cases. Cox regression analyses evaluated relations of 2 principal components-derived dietary patterns, 11 food groups, and 6 nutrients to VTE, adjusted for age, education, smoking status, physical activity, and energy intake. Results Over 19 years of follow-up, 1,950 of the 37,393 women developed VTE. Women consuming alcohol daily were at 26% (95% CI 11%-38%) lower risk of VTE as compared to nonconsumers. All alcoholic beverages types were in the direction of lower risk; however, only beer and liquor were statistically significant. After basic adjustments, coffee was inversely related to VTE, and diet soda and fish positively related. However, these associations were confounded and became nonsignificant after adjustment for body mass index and diabetes. No associations were observed with consumption of 'Western' or 'Prudent' dietary patterns, fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, refined grains, whole grains, regular soda, vitamins E, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, ù-3 fatty acids, or saturated fat. Conclusions In this cohort of older women, greater intake of alcohol was associated with a lower risk of incident VTE. No other independent associations were seen between diet and VTE.