I have a friend who still recoils from the table if an unrecognizable vegetable comes with her ordered dish. She’s 31. It takes some cajoling and telling her “You’re being ridiculous” and “Just try it, for God’s sake” to get her to taste the tiniest corner of the foreign veggie. For her, trying something new is equivalent to sky diving. I figured she was just a picky eater.

Turns out that she is, but her hesitancy might not be just a state of mind. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that our genes play a role in who is more adventurous than others when it comes to tasting new foods. The study, published today in Obesity, found that genes explained 72 percent of aversion to trying new food, called “food neophobia,” in the 66 pairs of 4- to 7-year-old twins studied. Environmental factors explained the other 28 percent. Even a previous study of adults was able to blame 69 percent of picky eating on their genes.

The bad news: The researchers discovered that if the parent of the picky child was heavier, the child would be heavier, too, if he or she refused to try new food.

The good news: This behavior can change. Repeated exposure of new foods, showing your child/friend the deliciousness of said food, and giving them more than one new food option can improve their chances to take the risk.

This may be a good reason to begin gardening with your small one this spring. Studies have shown that children who learn to grow vegetables and fruits consume more of both because of access. Digging in the garden every day will expediate the golden rule of “10 to 15 exposures” of a new food before kids accept it. No room to garden? Produce delivery services like Door to Door Organics or Mile High Organics will force even the brave to experiment with the box of changing foods that shows up each week.

Image via Shutterstock