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The Worst Sodas

Did You Know: Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to pass a tax on soda—1.5 cents per ounce, which is about $1 more for a 2-liter, Other cities have imposed similar taxes, including Berkeley, CA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, CO. The truth is that you don’t need to live in these locations to pay the price of drinking soda.

Although we call them “beer bellies,” new science says we ought to call our bloated midsections what they really are: soda bellies. In a study of about 1,000 adults over the course of six years, people who drank soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages gained an extra 1.8 pounds of visceral fat—the fat that sits inside your gut, damaging your internal organs and pushing your belly out into a King of the Hill–style slouch. To put that in perspective, 1.8 pounds is about how much a fetus weighs at 24 weeks. This means you can go from your lean, slim self to looking like you’re in your second trimester just by drinking a daily soda, sweetened iced tea, or fruit punch. (Talk about a punch to the gut!) But instead of carrying a bundle of joy, you’re carrying a bundle of toxic fat; visceral fat has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among other ills.

Why is soda so good at making us who drink it look bad? It’s the sugar. The USDA issued new guidelines in early 2016, recommending no more than 180 sugar calories per day for women (and 200 for men). This is the equivalent of approximately 45 grams of sugar—an amount that many sodas and other sweetened beverages exceed in just one can. And if it’s not sugar, then it’s an artificial sweetener, which can be 180 times sweeter than sugar and just as damaging to your waistline.


 Regular Sodas

sodas

First, I put them by calories, carbs, and sugar. Then, I examined each can’s ingredients and gave demerits to sodas with more chemicals and additives than those that were nutritionally similar. Here are regular sodas ranked from worst-to-best. (Although, “best” still doesn’t mean healthy!)


Fanta Grape

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 180 calories, 48 g carbs, 48 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavors, Tartaric Acid, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (to Protect Taste), Citric Acid, Red 40, Blue 1

Liquefy a bag of Skittles and you’d still have to add 6 grams of sugar to equal the sweetness of this can of corn syrup, citric acid, and artificial colors. In fact, that bag of Skittles has the exact same ingredients, including Red 40, which Canadian researchers found to be contaminated with known carcinogens. Even without its unsettling origin story—the Coca-Cola company created Fanta to profit in Germany when Nazis forbade the importation of USA-made Coke—this would still be the absolute worst soda in America!


Stewart’s Wishniak Black Cherry

best soda stewarts black cherry

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 180 calories, 44 g carbs, 43 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Benzoate, Caramel Color, Red 40, Blue 1

With more sugar than seven Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, Stewart’s Black Cherry would be a “Not That!” because of the sweetness alone—it’s the most caloric on this list. And, like many of the soda on this list, it also contains caramel coloring. This additive wouldn’t be dangerous if you made it the old-fashioned way—with water and sugar, on top of a stove. But the food industry follows a different recipe: they treat sugar with ammonia, which can produce some nasty carcinogens. A Center for Science in the Public Interest report asserted that the high levels of caramel color found in soda account for roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. annually. Instead, keep the soda-sipping to a minimum.


Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry

dr browns black cherryNUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 180 calories, 45 g carbs, 45 g sugar

 

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cherry And Other Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), and Artificial Color (Red 40)

With just two fewer grams of sugar than Stewart’s Black Cherry, Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry would horrify most doctors—and not just because of the sugar. Like Stewart’s—and many of the colored sodas here—this one has the artificial color Red 40, which is it ranks lower than our next entry, despite having less sugar.


A&W Cream Soda

best sodas aw cream soda

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 46 g carbs, 45 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Yucca Extract, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caffeine

A&W traffics heavily in the nostalgia of the roadside restaurant—the company created the nation’s first chain of them in 1923. But their cream soda is a car crash of HFCS and artificial colors and flavors. This is not your grandparent’s soda, in the worst way possible.


Mug Cream Soda

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 180 calories, 47 g carbs, 47 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Speaking of cream, you’d have to down 12 servings of Reddi-Wip to equal the calorie count of Mug Cream Soda (distributed by Pepsi)—and would still need to eat 12 Hershey’s Kisses on top of that to equal the sugar count. That sounds like an easy way to sip yourself to a fat belly!


A&W Root Beer

best sodas aw root beer

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 47 g carbs, 45 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Natural and Artificial Flavors

You gotta love that ingredients list: This American classic might have sugar and HFCS. Throw in two scoops of vanilla ice cream to make a Root Beer float and you have more than two days’ worth of sugar in one chilled mug.


Mountain Dew

best sodas mtn dew

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Caffeine, Sodium Citrate, Erythorbic Acid (Preserves Freshness), Gum Arabic, Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Protect Flavor), Brominated Vegetable Oil, Yellow 5

There’s flame retardant in your Mountain Dew. That soda with the lime-green hue (and other citrus-flavored bubbly pops) won’t keep your insides fireproof, but it does contain brominated vegetable oil, a patented flame retardant for plastics that have been banned in foods throughout Europe and in Japan. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, which acts as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soda drinks, is found in about 10 percent of sodas sold in the U.S. “After a few extreme soda binges—not too far from what many gamers regularly consume—a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine,” according to an article in Scientific American.


Mountain Dew Code Red

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Orange Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Natural Flavor, Caffeine, Sodium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Red 40, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Yellow 5, Blue 1

As we said, Europe and Japan have already banned the flame retardant brominated vegetable oil (BVO) out of their bubbly beverages. Code Red! Dudes, to truly get a six-pack, don’t do the Dew.


Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 180 calories, 44 g carbs, 44 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Caramel Color

With more calories than a Mountain Dew (though with less artificial colors, thus its better ranking), this Cream would make even Prince blush.


Dr. Brown’s Root Beer

best sodas dr browns root beer

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Gum Acacia, Citric Acid, Caffeine Free

You know when you add some Mentos to a two-liter Diet Coke and the whole thing explodes? (Don’t try that at home.) That’s thanks to the Gum Acacia in the candy, which also in this soda—it’s a natural emulsifier. Despite its weird name, is probably this most natural ingredient in this sugar juice.


Surge

best sodas surge

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 172 calories, 46.5 g carbs, 42 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Orange Juice Concentrate, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Potassium Citrate, Caffeine, Calcium Disodium Edta (To Protect Taste), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Carob Bean Gum, Blue 1

It’s not uncommon for “sodium and potassium benzoate are added to some diet soft drinks and fruit drinks. Unfortunately—especially because Surge contains OJ—”they can form benzene, which is a carcinogen when combined with vitamin C, the ascorbic acid in juice or soda.


Mello-Yello

best sodas melo yello

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 47 g carbs, 47 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Calcium Disodium Edta (To Protect Taste), Potassium Citrate, Caffeine, Yellow 5, Carob Bean Gum

This soda is sweetened with inflammatory HFCS which makes for a shocking sugar count. It’s also colored with Yellow 5, a food dye that’s been linked to hyperactivity in children. Luckily, this soda used to contain the preservative sodium benzoate, a potentially cancer-causing substance but has since been removed.


Sunkist

best sodas sunkist

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 170 calories, 44 g carbs, 43 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Modified Corn Starch, Natural Flavors, Caffeine, Ester Gum, Yellow 6, Red 40

What do you get when you combine carbonated water with High Fructose Corn Syrup and a host of hard-to-pronounce chemicals? This citrus-inspired sip. It gets its alluring orange color from Yellow 5 and Red 40. A Neurotherapeutics journal study linked Yellow 5 and Red 40 to hyperactivity in children.


Barq’s Root Beer

best sodas barqs

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 45 g carbs, 45 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Citric Acid, Caffeine, Artificial, And Natural Flavors

Acacia Barq’s Root Beer falls toward the middle of the pack regarding carbs, sugar and has a slightly less horrifying chemical profile than its competition. It’s better than A&W Root Beer but slightly worse than Mug.


Fanta Orange

best sodas fanta orange

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 45 g carbs, 44 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Natural Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Polyphosphates, Glycerol Ester Of Rosin, Yellow 6, Red 40

I don’t know about you, but after a long day of hard work and play, I like to sit back and relax and crack open a can of Glycerol Ester Of Rosin. The wood resin is added to many fruit sodas to help the fruit-flavored oils mix better with the water. While it’s not necessarily harmful, let us repeat: you’re drinking oil and water, sold to you by Coke.


Orange Crush

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 43 g carbs, 43 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Ester Gum, Yellow 6, Red 40

Orange Crush has the same nutritionals as the next soda, Mug’s Root Beer, but we’re docking it points for the Yellow 6, which, as I’ve said, is crushing stuff.


Mug’s Root Beer

best sodas mugs

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 43 g carbs, 43 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (preserves freshness), Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), Quillaia Extract

Quillaia extract? The best (and worst) part of researching these sodas in the Eat This, Not That! Food Lab is coming across the weird ingredients soda manufacturers (in this case, Pepsi) add to their concoctions. Quillaia is another tree bark, and it helps your root beer foam up. Be more scared of the sugar here—you’re basically drinking four root beer-flavored Dum Dums mixed with additives.


Wild Cherry Pepsi

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavor, Caffeine, Citric Acid

Nothing wild here—just the same ingredients as most sodas, and as much sugar as more than three cups of cherries (without containing any real cherries… SHOCKER)!


Crush Grapefruit

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 160 calories, 43 g carbs, 43 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Acacia Gum, Red 40, Blue 1

Our childhood nostalgia is crushed: This kid-favorite brand has no actual grapefruit. On the bright side, it has no BVO.


Mist TWST (formerly Sierra Mist)

mist twist

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 150 calories, 39 g carbs, 39 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Clarified Lemon Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate and Potassium Benzoate (preserves freshness), Calcium Disodium EDTA (protect flavor)

When it was called Sierra Mist, it was sweetened with sugar and stevia. Now, after being rebranded to Mist TWST, this soda is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup with no natural sugar in sight. This tacked on an additional 30 calories and 10 grams of sugar—far from the pre beverage that we used to rank #1 on this list.


Stewart’s Root Beer

best sodas root beer

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 150 calories, 38 g carbs, 38 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Citric Acid, Quillaia Extract, Gum Acacia, Yucca Extract

If you wouldn’t eat three and a half bowls of Apple Jacks then you should stay away from this root beer. That’s the sugar equivalent of what’s in a 12-ounce can.


Cherry Coca-Cola

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 150 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine

As we come near the top ten, you’ll notice the oils and artificial flavors disappearing and see some of the most popular sodas for what they really are: carbonated water, HFCS, some acids and little else. This classic—once made with real cherry juice—is, unfortunately, a variation on a common blend. It’s like finding out your cool dad worked in accounting all along.


Pepsi-Cola

best sodas pepsi

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 150 calories, 41 g carbs, 41 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor

The perennial #2 in the cola wars carries 5 grams more sugar than a 3 Musketeers bar and 1 gram more carbs. Let that sink in: One of America’s most popular sodas has that much sugar. Instead of drinking this, make a weight loss smoothie!


Pepsi Real Sugar

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 150 calories, 40 g carbs, 40 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric, Acid, Caffeine, Natural Flavor

Sugar is the master of disguise. Maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, dextrose, sucrose—it’s got more alter egos than the Avengers. But its most well-known costume, as you know after reading this far, is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Pepsi’s hoping you forget it’s all the same sweet stuff, heavily marketing this new brand formulated with sugar and no HFCS. But in a 2014 review of five studies comparing the effects of sugar and HFCS, there was no difference found in changes in blood glucose levels, lipid levels, or appetite between table sugar consumption and HFCS consumption. In other words, your body can’t tell one from the other—they’re both just sugar.


Pibb Xtra

best sodas

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 39 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Sorbate And Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Artificial And Natural Flavors, Caffeine, Monosodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Polyethylene Glycol

A “spicy” cherry soda found mostly in the South—or in Coke Freestyle machines—Pibb Xtra contains propylene glycol, a preservative, thickening agent, and stabilizer, also used as antifreeze to de-ice airplanes, as a plasticizer to make polyester resins, and found in electronic cigarettes. The soda ranks well because of its calorie count, but we can’t recommend you drink it!


7Up Cherry

best sodas 7up cherry

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 38 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Citric Acid, Filtered Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavors, Potassium Benzoate (preservative), Red 40

No caramel color—ranking goes up! Red 40—ranking goes down.


Coca-Cola Classic

best sodas coca cola

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 39 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine

The company itself is responsible for the HFCS-filled Sprite, Barq’s, Fanta, Dr. Pepper, Fuze Tea, Powerade, Monster energy drinks and more—not to mention the sugary VitaminWater. Yet the company’s flagship drink is less harmful than most of the soda’s on this list. That doesn’t mean you should drink it. It means you shouldn’t drink soda. For a healthier buzz without the preservatives, drink tea.


7Up

best sodas 7up

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 38 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Filtered Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

The best part of clear sodas: no caramel color. Worst part: They’re still sodas, and otherwise contain the same ingredients as the rest. This classic, now distributed by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, has lost market share since its 80s heyday but remains a crisp drink that’s not much better than a Coke.


Sprite

best sodas sprite

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 38 g carbs, 38 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste)

Promoted by the coolest athletes, Sprite has the marketing down—and a calorie count slightly lower than the other citric sodas on this list. But we can’t imagine LeBron and friends guzzling a can of carbonated corn syrup before a game.


Canada Dry Ginger Ale

best sodas canada dry

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 36 g carbs, 35 g sugar

INGREDIENTS:*Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Caramel Color

Our moms used to give this to us when we had a tummy ache. Now as adults, we get a tummy ache looking at it. Blame Canada. Their tagline is “Real Ginger, Real Taste” but the main ingredients here are carbonated water and HSFC, which won’t help you lose your belly! But with lower calories than the rest, it ranks well on this ignominious list.


Dr. Brown’s Cel Ray

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 140 calories, 34 g carbs, 34 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Extract of Celery Seed with other Natural Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative) and Caramel Color

The healthiest-sounding soda on this list nearly is. But unfortunately for the fans of Jewish delis everywhere, Cel Ray blends actual celery seed extract with HFCS.


Schweppes Ginger Ale

best sodas schwepps

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 120 calories, 33 g carbs, 32 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Natural Flavors, Natural Colors

Despite being near the top of this list, this soda has as much HFCS-derived sugar as 10 croissants. At least there are any artificial flavors (nor ginger, unfortunately).


Seagram’s Ginger Ale

best sodas seagrams

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 100 calories, 26 g carbs, 26 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (To Protect Taste), Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Ginger

This is the #2 least-worst soda, with a big caveat: “High fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to increase appetite and, over time, leads to health problems such as obesity and diabetes,” Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group says. Yeah, yeah, you knew it was bad, but hear us again: HFCS is bad! Still, Seagram’s Ginger Ale has a lower calorie count than most.

And coming in at #1

Coca-Cola Life

coca-cola life

NUTRITION (PER 12 FL OZ): 90 calories, 24 g sugar

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural Flavors, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Caffeine, Stevia Leaf Extract

Although Coke Life is sweetened with stevia, it’s certainly not a “diet” beverage. A can of this still packs 24 grams of sugar and is 90 calories. Still, that’s much less than other traditional colas on the market. And the ingredients are pretty simple, too—sweetened with cane sugar and stevia, there’s no HFCS, which is a bonus. At less than 100 calories a can, this is definitely the best of the regular sodas (although it that still doesn’t make it healthy!)


Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed today’s post? If you have any questions about today’s post, any past post or questions, in general, please feel free in reaching out. You can ALWAYS find my email in the “Thank You” section and you can also ALWAYS find all of my social media links in the “Where You Can Follow Me” section. If you or someone you may know is looking for one on one coaching or just looking for advice on how to jump-start a healthy lifestyle or how to stay on track during the holidays you can find all of my links which are ALWAYS provided in the “Thank You” section and in the “Where You Can Follow Me” section.


Thank You

I do hope you stick around as I put out different types of content I try to post educational, Informative things that everyone can learn from. I am learning what people like to read and what people don’t. The one thing you will get from me Is honesty. If I post something It’s because I believe In It no matter If It’s a beauty review, recipe post, or just me posting a random post.

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Author

leighlei2009@gmail.com
Hello, my name Is Amanda and I'm the woman behind AmandaExplainsIt. I'm a Free Spirit, coffee sipping blogger and I embrace all of the messy parts of life.I'm a mommy of two precious doggies and an advocate for food allergies, animals, and nutrition In real life. I've always loved writing and writing a blog fulfills that. I'm all about spirituality and going with the flow of things. I'm new to the beauty world and I'm excited to share what I learn along the way. Come back often because I post often and I post things related to but not limited to Beauty Reviews, Product Reviews, Spirituality, Nutrition and Food Allergies, and Gluten-Free Recipes. If you like what you read let's be friends. ~XOXO A.

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