The association between plant foods intake and gastric cancer risk was investigated in a Uruguayan study on environmental factors and cancer. The study included 160 newly diagnosed and histologically verified cases of gastric carcinoma and 320 hospitalized controls. These controls were frequency-matched to the cases on age, sex, residence and urban/rural status. Total vegetable intake was associated with a reduction in risk (odds ratio (OR) 0.64, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.38-1.08), which was markedly attenuated after adjustment for total fruit intake. The only group of vegetables that persisted as significantly protective after controlling for total energy and total fruit consumption were allium vegetables (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.34-0.92). On the other hand, total fruit consumption displayed a strong inverse association after controlling for total vegetable intake (OR 0.35, 95% CI 0.21-0.59). Neither tubers nor pulses were associated with gastric cancer risk. Finally, total plant foods were strongly associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.18-0.54). It is suggested that vitamins (vitamin C and carotenoids) and bioactive substances (diallyl sulfide) could be involved in the mechanisms of action of plant foods.