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Blackberry and Toasted Walnut Kale Salad with Goat Cheese is the perfect balance of sweet/salty flavors with the bonus of nutty crunch and nutritious greens.

Blackberry and Toasted Walnut Kale Salad with Goat Cheese 1

When you actually enjoy eating healthy foods, drink water like a fish, and get in a good 30 minute workout three to five times a week, it comes as a real kick in the tush when you find out you have a kidney stone. (Yup, I’m speaking from personal experience here.)

On a Sunday morning not long ago, I thanked the gods when my hubby woke up at an exceptionally early (for him) 9am because I knew I needed to head into the ER. I had moderate lower abdominal and back pain that wasn’t constant, but felt like a stabbing throb when it came, and my urine had been dark since the previous Friday. At first I thought maybe I was dehydrated (hence the urine color) and my period was coming a little early (the pain literally felt like intense menstrual cramps), but I knew something was really wrong when I had three waves of nausea in the timespan of an hour and a half in the wee hours of that morning.

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Mike and I headed into the ER and about eight hours later, we left with the knowledge that I had a quite sizeable (8mm by 12mm, to be exact) stone in my left kidney. I had it removed without a hitch the next day (and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t experience the pain that most people who suffer from kidney stones describe). But this sort of thing makes one wonder what caused it in the first place, and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

I talked to my doctor (who, I have to say, is hands-down the absolute best doctor I’ve ever had, including OBGYN, primary care, and every other doctor I’ve encountered, and that’s really saying a lot because I LOVED my OBGYN back in Buffalo), did quite a bit of research on my own, and came to the conclusion that a good thing becomes a bad thing when you overdo it. Of course it’s darn-near impossible to pinpoint a single cause, but taking into account the type of stone I had (a calcium oxalate stone), a likely cause (or at least contributing factor) was oxalates.

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Now, I’m not a doctor so don’t take anything I’m telling you as medical advice, but after doing copious amounts of research on the subject, I’m pretty sure I was overdoing it with foods that contain oxalates, like black tea, almonds, beets, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, berries, etc. (Again, it is such a kick in the bum when you think you’re eating healthy only to later realize you’re putting your health at risk.)

Anyway, I didn’t despair, and there was no way I was cutting these otherwise healthy foods out of my life altogether (although, I did consciously scale back though…moderation, right?). And as my doctor told me, it’s not even feasible to eliminate all oxalate-containing foods. What I did learn though, was that it may be better (in terms of kidney stone prevention) to combine a food containing oxalates with a food that contains calcium. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states: “Calcium from food does not increase the risk of calcium oxalate stones. Calcium in the digestive tract binds to oxalate from food and keeps it from entering the blood, and then the urinary tract, where it can form stones.” Similarly, from the National Kidney Foundation: “Dairy products have calcium, but they actually help prevent stones, because calcium binds with oxalate before it gets into the kidneys. People with the lowest dietary calcium intake have an increased risk of kidney stones.”

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And from Health Line: “Research indicates that boosting your intake of calcium-rich foods when you eat foods that are high in oxalate may be a better approach than simply eliminating oxalate from the diet. As they digest, oxalate and calcium are more likely to bind together before they get to the kidneys, making it less likely that kidney stones will form.” And Cleveland Clinic says: “Eating high calcium foods at the same time as high oxalate food is helpful; for example have low fat cheese with a spinach salad or yogurt with berries.”

Enter this thing of beauty. Kale and blackberries (which both have oxalates) plus goat cheese (calcium) mean I’m not afraid of kale anymore (seriously, even though my kidney stone experience wasn’t particularly painful, I sure could do without having a stent in ever again! And regardless of the pain level, I don’t want to put my body under that kind of stress).

And also, I love a good salad that can be whipped up in next to no time and can be packed up for a weekday work lunch. It makes getting a nutritious meal that much easier, which is always a plus.

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Blackberry and Toasted Walnut Kale Salad with Goat Cheese
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 lunch-sized salad, or 2 side dish-sized salads
Blackberry and Toasted Walnut Kale Salad with Goat Cheese is the perfect balance of sweet/salty flavors with the bonus of nutty crunch and nutritious greens.
  • 1 teaspoon raw, local honey
  • 2 teaspoons organic, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt and black pepper
  • ¼ of a small to medium-sized white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • ½ cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese or feta
  1. Whisk together the honey, vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss in the onion and kale and let it sit for 10 minutes (see Note for how to make this salad ahead).
  3. Transfer the kale mixture to a serving bowl and top with the berries, walnuts, and cheese; serve immediately.
Make-Ahead: Make a double, triple, or quadruple batch of this salad in about the same amount of time to feed crowd. To make it ahead, complete steps 1 and 2, and wait to add the berries, walnuts, and cheese until right before serving.

Please note that I am NOT a doctor or medical practitioner of any kind. Nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice. If you need medical advice you should immediately seek a physician’s care. 

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. I tried it yesterday and I can tell you that it tastes as good as it looks. It was amazing and all my guests loved it.

  2. Interestingly I had similar situation and pain, knowing something was not right at work. Left to see the doctor, and an hour later had my appendix out. Same for a kidney stone… so out of the blue! My body doesn’t seem to process calcium very well. Glad you’re OK and like you mentioned, everything in moderation. Beauty of a salad, Faith!

  3. So very, very glad you’re safe and well. XO This salad is delicious and beautiful.

  4. This salad sounds wonderful. And I appreciate the education about combining calcium-rich foods with foods that have oxalates. Hopefully that information will keep you from going through the kidney stone thing again, while still allowing you to eat great food.

    1. Thank you so much, Susan! It was so frustrating to find out about the stone because I definitely try to be conscious about what I eat. Fingers crossed that it’s over for good!

  5. Oh wow, Faith! I’m so glad to hear you’re all right. That pain is terrible and can be so scary. I had a kidney stone years ago and I swore it was worse than childbirth. I love your advice…combining oxalate foods with calcium. I need to pay more attention to that…those are all foods I eat every single day! I’ve also heard that drinking lemon water or fresh lemonade was a good idea too. I think the citric acid can help some too. Here’s to no more stones…ever! :)

    Ah…and this salad? Gorgeous and so full of my favorite things!

    1. Thank you, sweet friend! Yes, I’ve heard that about lemon water too! I sometimes drink lemon water, or I’ll add a splash of raw, organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar to water. Anything to try to prevent stones again, lol! xoxo

  6. Wow, Faith – what a scary experience! I’m so glad that it was resolved quickly. I learned so much in this post – I had no idea what caused kidney stones.

    Once again, you’ve created a show stopper of a salad. I love this combination and berries are at their peak at our farmer’s market so your timing is perfect.

    So glad you’re okay. xo

    1. Thank you, sweet friend! After hearing about other peoples’ kidney stone experiences, I definitely think I was very fortunate that mine was resolved so quickly. xoxo

  7. A beautiful salad! Such a great combination. I love the fact that you’ve used blackberries (one of my favorite fruits).



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