All those smug vegetarians now have something else to brag about: new research says they’ll live longer than meat-eaters.

A 20-year study conducted by Harvard University with 120,000 adults found those who ate the most red meat were also more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than people who ate the fewest daily servings of beef, pork, and lamb.

So how much is dangerous? The study indicates eating a single daily three-ounce serving — that’s roughly the size of a deck of playing cards — of unprocessed red meat raises your chances of dying of heart disease by about 18 percent and your risk of a cancer death by 10 percent.

And people who love processed meat like bacon, hot dogs or sausage are in even greater peril — those boosted heart disease deaths by 21 percent and cancer fatalities by 16 percent in the study group.

But that doesn’t mean you have to resort to eating tree limbs. Leaner proteins, like fish, chicken, nuts, low-fat dairy, whole grains, or beans can actually lower the risk of early death by up to 19 percent.

“I think everybody would be better off if they consumed a plant-based diet,” says Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. “But even modest changes — substituting chicken for beef, for example, or fish for chicken — also play an important role in reducing risk.”

[WebMD]