Mammographic parenchymal patterns are related to breast cancer risk and are also thought to be affected by diet. We designed a case-control study comprising 200 cases with high-risk (P2 and DY) mammographic parenchymal pattern and 200 controls with low-risk (N1 and P1) patterns in order to investigate the effect of food and nutrient intake on mammographic patterns. Mammograms were evaluated according to the Wolfe classification system. Dietary data were obtained from 7-day food diaries. Mean daily intake of nutrients was computed from standard UK food tables. The adjusted odds ratio (OR) of having a high-risk pattern in women in the highest tertile of total protein and carbohydrate intake was twice that of women in the lowest tertile (OR = 2.00; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06-3.77; P = 0.04 and OR = 1.93; 95% CI 1.03-3.59; P = 0.04 respectively). There was no excess risk for fat intake. In addition, there was no association between intake of vitamins and mammographic parenchymal patterns. Total meat intake was strongly and positively associated with high-risk patterns among post-menopausal women (OR = 2.50, 95% CI 1.09-5.69, P = 0.03). Our study suggests that certain macronutrients and foods such as protein, carbohydrate and meat intake influence the risk of breast cancer through their effects on breast tissue morphology, whereas fat and vitamins do not affect mammographic density. It seems that parenchymal pattern acts as an informative biomarker of the effect of some macronutrient and foodstuffs intake on breast cancer risk.