Epidemiological studies have reported inverse associations between various single healthy diet indices and lower levels of systemic inflammation, but rarely are they examined in the same sample. The aim of the present study was to investigate the potential relationships between biomarkers of systemic inflammation (C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen) and overall foods (dietary patterns), single foods (fruits and vegetables), and specific nutritive (antioxidants) and non-nutritive (flavonoids) food components in the same narrow-age cohort of older adults. The dietary intake of 792 participants aged 70 years from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 was assessed using a 168-item FFQ. Models were adjusted for age, sex, childhood cognitive ability, lifestyle factors and history of disease. Using logistic regression analyses, CRP (normal v. elevated) was favourably associated (at P< 0·05) with the ‘health-aware’ (low-fat) dietary pattern (unstandardised β = (0·200, OR 0·82, 95 % CI 0·68, 0·99) and fruit intake (unstandardised β = (0·100, OR 0·91, 95 % CI 0·82, 0·99), including flavonoid-rich apples (unstandardised β = (0·456, OR 0·63, 95 % CI 0·439, 0·946). Using linear regression analyses, fibrinogen (continuous) was inversely associated (at P< 0·05) with the Mediterranean dietary pattern (standardised β = (0·100), fruit intake (standardised β = (0·083), and combined fruit and vegetable intake (standardised β = (0·084). We observed no association between food components (antioxidant nutrients or specific flavonoid subclasses) and inflammatory markers. In the present cross-sectional study, nutrient-dense dietary patterns were associated with lower levels of systemic inflammation in older people. The results are consistent with dietary guidelines that promote a balanced diet based on a variety of plant-based foods.